The most common refrain, though, is that Facebook is no longer relevant when there are shinier toys to play with. “What’s funny is, right after our interview I signed up for Facebook part deux (Google+),” Mr. Romanowicz told The Observer in an instant message.
Two-year-old Petey Rojas, son of Peter Rojas, a founder of the popular gadget blog Engadget and the gadgets question-and-answer site gdgt, is not on Facebook. But he has a Twitter account waiting for him when he comes of age. His mother updates @PeteyRojas with quotes from the toddler (“You know my friend Caleb? He’s dangerous!”) and a mix of links; it has 247 followers. “It’s more like a placeholder, in the same way that I own URLs for him,” Mr. Rojas said. “I always tell people, if you have a child, you should buy the domain name as soon as you decide what the name is.”
He hasn’t reserved Facebook.com/PeteyRojas. “By the time they’re old enough to use Facebook—13, technically—will they even care at that point? Will Facebook even be something that people care about at that time?” he said. He quit the network himself a year ago because he wasn’t using it. “The only thing I did on Facebook was manage my privacy settings,” he said.
Facebook fatigue among early adopters won’t necessarily spread to mainstream users. Then again, it might—social networks are, after all, social. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, having won an Oscar for The Social Network, recently announced he was through with the site. “I have a lot of opinions about social media that make me sound like a grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids,” he said during a panel in Cannes.
But Facebook certainly seems worried about being ditched, judging by the hoops users have to jump through in order to leave. If you’d like your account “permanently deleted with no option for recovery” (these words are in bold), you must “submit a form.” This takes you to a page warning that your profile will be permanently deleted with no option for recovery, and tells you to click “submit” if you’re sure, implying that this click will instantly and irrevocably destroy your Facebook profile. Actually, it opens a verification page with a password prompt and spam test. If you pass, a window pops up: “Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days. If you log into your account within the next 14 days, you will have the option to cancel your request.” Then, Facebook sends you an email with a link to cancel the request.
The delete option is buried, though, under the option to “deactivate,” which merely freezes and hides a profile, “just in case you want to come back to Facebook at some point.” When you deactivate, a page comes up with the heading, “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” above pictures of your friends with captions: Mark will miss you. Alejandro will miss you. Vanessa will miss you.
“When I deleted my account, I had this Swedish intern that I was in love with,” Mr. Romanowicz recalled. “She was so cool. And Facebook must have recognized that I had viewed her profile over and over again. Facebook was like, ‘If you close your account these people will miss you.’ I was like, this is fucking hilarious.”
Mr. Romanowicz ran into the Swede recently, by coincidence at a bar. “We danced for a little bit,” he remembered. “It was a good close to that small love affair.”