Would You Rather Live Without Your News Feed or Gmail?

You might be surprised by people’s answers.

If you had to give up the so-called “Frightful Five” tech companies — Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Apple — what order would you do it in? According to the responses New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo is getting after posing that question to readers, the majority of us would kick Facebook to the curb first.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

As of publication time, 56 percent of respondents said they’d stop using Facebook’s products (including Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and, of course, Facebook itself) before ditching the rest of the Frightful Five’s offerings. Manjoo made the same choice, as did this writer. (Sorry, acquaintances whose birthdays I only remember because Facebook reminds me about them.) On an equally important note, just one percent of readers said they’d give up Facebook last.

The survey doesn’t ask people why they’d give up the companies in their chosen order, but it matters that Facebook is overwhelmingly the first tech giant to get the heave-ho. It could simply be that people feel they could live without their Newsfeed before they could live without their iPhone, but maybe we’re also waking up to the darker side of social media. Research has linked more Facebook use over time to poorer well-being, and a recent study suggests that heavy Facebook users crave logging on when they see the platform’s logo (aka every time they look at their smartphone’s home screen). Teenagers may understand this better than anyone — a recent survey found that surprisingly high number of American teens take voluntary breaks from social media because it negatively affects them in one way or another.

Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Apple are evidently the companies most of us feel we can’t live without. Thirty-nine percent and 34 percent of respondents put Alphabet and Apple last on their list, respectively. That makes a certain amount of sense when you think about the products you use every day: We’re overly dependent on our smartphones (Apple obviously makes iPhones, but don’t forget that Google makes the Android operating system) and you’d be hard pressed to find a job that didn’t involve a litany of Google docs and sheets, not to mention what we’d do without Google search or Gmail. In the grand, comparative scheme of things, your ‘likes’ aren’t nearly as essential to your daily life.

It’s crucial to remember though that all of these companies have a vested interest in getting your attention and keeping you hooked on their products — not just Facebook. When we set boundaries with technology that should include all technology, and staying vigilant about the growing ways that tech is infiltrating our day-to-day lives (whether it’s Facebook or Amazon’s growing list of smart-home products) is a good place to start.

Take the New York Times survey here.