The Joke Is on Princeton After Highly Flawed Facebook Study

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Last week, Princeton released a widely-cited but pretty flawed study saying that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) will lose 80 percent of its users between 2015 and 2017. On Thursday, Facebook responded by using Princeton’s methodology to prove that Princeton will lose all of its students by 2021, and the Earth will in fact run out of air by 2060.

In a Facebook post titled “Debunking Princeton,” Facebook used Princeton’s “correlation equals causation” idea on the university itself to show that just because Princeton says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. The Princeton study is flawed for several reasons. It uses a strange epidemiology metaphor likening Facebook to a virus that Facebook users will eventually “recover” from. Just because Facebook can be addicting and takes up more of our time than many people are proud of, it doesn’t mean the social media site actually operates like a sickness.

Next, Princeton uses the data on the number of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) searches for the word “Facebook” to illustrate that people are becoming less interested in the site. Since Google searches for “Facebook” have fallen since 2012, it must mean people are losing interest in the platform. The problem with this method should be obvious. Do you log in to Facebook by first googling “Facebook” to find the Facebook homepage? Probably not, even if you still use a desktop to access the site instead of the increasingly-popular Facebook mobile app, which obviously requires no googling to find.

Lastly, Princeton compares Facebook to MySpace in a way that makes it seem as if MySpace lost its users on its own, rather than having users stolen from it by Facebook. The problems with this study are obvious, but a university with the reputation of Princeton saying that Facebook will soon lose all of its users warranted a response from the social media site. Facebook researchers put Princeton to the test and applied the study’s method of using Google search stats to make other conclusions.

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