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It's Quit Facebook Day. Who will dare delete their profile? Add to ...

It all comes down to this.

Amid concerns about dubious privacy settings and accusations of securities fraud, Facebook is enduring public animosity that's culminated in tens of thousands vowing to quit the popular social-networking site Monday.

Whether the users follow through remains to be seen. Closing an account is tricky in more ways than one. For starters, figuring out how to navigate the delete option is difficult. Secondly, the reality is that in today's digital world, logging off of Facebook can leave you out of the loop socially. Many others have attempted to axe their accounts before - only to find themselves pulled back in.

The first-ever Quit Facebook Day is the brainchild of two Torontonians, Joseph Dee, a Web technologist, and Matthew Milan, a partner at Normative Design. So far, more than 23,000 people have pledged their commitment to going cold turkey on the movement's website ( quitfacebook.com).

Blogger Amber MacArthur plays devil's advocate and gives a few reasons you may want to stick around the world's most popular social networking site

The notion to quit came to Mr. Milan suddenly, earlier this month. "I originally said I was going to quit May 17, then I changed it to May 31 to set up a date that was more realistic for people," Mr. Milan says.

He wanted to give his family and friends, who use the site to keep in touch, time to adjust, perhaps to dust off their address books.

The big misconception is that it's all about privacy, Mr. Milan says.

"It's not a privacy issue in my mind. It's a respect issue. A level of trust between supplier and consumer is really important, and Facebook lost track of that."

Mr. Milan acknowledges he can't be sure if this breach of trust is enough to encourage a mass exodus by the end of the day. (Even if all those who say they will quit do so it would just be a drop in the bucket; Facebook boasts 400 million active users worldwide.) But he's okay with that. Quitting isn't necessarily the point, he says; awareness is.



"The number of people quitting isn't as important as people talking about what's wrong with Facebook, and, more importantly, that Facebook is starting to respond to the pressure," Mr. Milan says.

That is no doubt a relief for people who just can't break their addiction.

Three years ago, Jeffrey Sass founded a "social networking rehab" blog, 28 Digital Days. It was meant to be somewhat "tongue in cheek," he says, "but there's a lot of truth in the humour."

Then, in 2009, Mr. Sass announced that he would post a 140-step program to quitting social media. But he couldn't practise what he preached: He hasn't quit. He hasn't even gotten around to posting the steps.

"Because of my addiction," Mr. Sass explains. "I've spent so much time on Facebook that I haven't gotten it up yet. But it's in progress."

Still, he did start the Facebook page Invitations, a virtual "social networking recovery facility" (yes, he sees the irony of hosting such a group on such a site). There, patients vie for "beds" (coveted spots in the online discussion forums) from which members talk about their social media overdose. Mr. Sass has no plans to vacate his page, and suspects the Quit Facebook phenomenon is an empty threat.

If you're willing to quit, he says, you probably aren't using the site that much anyway.

And while that may be true for a particular user, it may not be the case for his or her friends. Many Facebook quitters relapse because they fear the social exile that lies outside its blue-and-white borders.

That's why Sarah Braesch, from Washington, D.C., is encouraging her friends to remain faithful.

"I think Facebook is bigger than us," Ms. Braesch says.

"That's how I see people's wedding pictures; that's how I find out my cousin's cousin had a kid. My neighbours use it to schedule barbecues. I have to have it."

Despite all the uproar, "people won't quit over privacy," she adds. "They'll quit when something else becomes popular. Everyone is on Facebook. If you're not, it's weird."

Such default loyalty is exactly what David Levine, a retiree from the antivirus company McAfee, is most concerned about.

He deleted his Facebook account earlier this month for one simple reason: He doesn't trust it.

Site renovations that link user profile information to corresponding group pages, and changes to the navigational structure aren't just for show, the former software designer says. "It's a strategic move to try to throw users off-balance."

Facebook's privacy settings default to open; It's up to the user to find out how to close them, and "everything is opt-out, not opt-in," Mr. Levine says, adding that most users are not familiar enough with the software to navigate the settings.

Of course, even if everyone did quit Facebook, it's unlikely they would quit social networking altogether.

"People will look for a replacement, construct their own stuff," Mr. Levine says. "But where you go on the Internet isn't as important as what you do while you're there."

Mr. Sass predicts that ex-users will migrate elsewhere online. "It's human nature to want to be part of a tribe. Social media is giving us tools to be inherently human."

But failing online alternatives, will ex-Facebook users default to voice-on-voice communication or face-to-face interaction? Say, pick up a telephone?

Unlikely, Ms. Braesch says. "I don't think they'll speak to each other in person."

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