College students in a recent study demanded an average of $US2,076 ($2,957) to quit Facebook for a year. As Ars Technica explains, this wasn’t just a survey — researchers actually held little auctions to pay the lowest bidder to quit for a day, three days, a week, and a year. That’s not counting the students who refused to put any price on their Facebook use. So, how much would you have bid?
In the same study, non-students were ready to quit for about half as much money. (Mechanical Turk users demanded about the same as the students, but the researchers had no way to enforce that they actually close their accounts.) Across the different auctions, the longer that people were asked to quit Facebook for, the more money per day they wanted. But not much more, especially if you consider that quitting for a year could mean missing out on the next Facebook-owned app or gadget. Consider that when you decide how much you’d really demand.
Side note: The researchers used a second price auction, a cleverly optimised auction used by Google to sell search ads. The winning bidder only has to pay (or only gets to receive) the second-place bid, which encourages everyone to bid closer to their real ideal price. It’s kind of like how you can tell eBay what you’re really willing to bid up to. If it’s still unclear to you, Ars’s article explains it at length.
The researchers reach some confusing conclusions. They compare Facebook’s stock value to how much these users demanded in return for quitting. Because the students ask for more money than their “share” of Facebook’s market cap, the researchers conclude that they must actually be getting a great deal, even with advertisers making money off of them. They assume that these people really do get $US2,000 ($2,849) worth of value from the social network each year, just because that’s the price they demand for giving it up.
Therefore, they say, Facebook must be a net good for its users. We think, however, that all this shows is that tech addicts will demand a lot of money to get clean.