تم النشر في: 2018-12-19 22:59:18
People addicted to social media would demand up to $2,000 not to use Facebook for a year, according to new research - despite the recent data handling scandal.
A study of more than 1,300 adults showed the social networking website was worth that much to them.
And if everyone valued it at that price, it would at least quadruple the value of the company.
A team of researchers carried out three real-life auctions that revealed Facebook users would require between $1,139 and $2,076 to deactivate their account for a year.
First author Professor Jay Corrigan, an economist at Kenyon College in Ohio, said: 'Social media, and the internet more broadly, have changed the way we live and the way we keep in touch with friends and family.
'But it's hard to find evidence that the internet has made us richer or more productive at work.
'We know people must derive tremendous value from Facebook or they wouldn't spend millions of hours on the site every day. The challenge is how to put a dollar value on a service people don't pay for.'
Corresponding author Prof Sean Cash, an economist at Tufts University in Boston, said: 'Auction participants faced real financial consequences, so had an incentive to seriously consider what compensation they would want to close their accounts for a set period of time and to bid truthfully.
'Students placed a higher value on Facebook than community members. A number of participants refused to bid at all - suggesting that deactivating Facebook for a year was not a welcome possibility.'
It's the first time the site's value to its users has been compared to its market value or its contribution to gross domestic product.
People were actually paid to close their accounts for as little as one day or as long as one year.
Prof Corrigan, who has done a number of studies involving experimental auctions, said winners were paid upon proof their membership was deactivated for the set period of time.
Facebook, with more than two billion global users, is among a string of social media websites that provide access at no cost.
So the researchers asked volunteers how much they would require to give up their Facebook account for a fixed period - from one day to one year.
The first auction involving 122 US students at a college in the Mid West found the average bid for deactivating Facebook for one day was $4.17 (£3.30; for three days, $13.89 (£11.00); and for one week, $37.00 (£29.27).
Over a year this would work out at between $1,511 to $1,908 - £1,200 to £1,500, said the researchers.
The second included 133 students and 138 adults from a large Midwestern university and town.
The average bid to deactivate Facebook for a year in the student group was $2,076 (£1,643) while the average bid in the community group was $1,139 (£900).
The third of 931 adults in the US with an average age of 33 found the average bid to deactivate Facebook for one year was $1,921 (£1,520).
The study contrasted the company's market capitalisation with the value placed on it by its users.
For example, based on a market valuation of approximately $420 billion (£332bn), and about 2.2 billion users, the market value of Facebook would be approximately $190 (£150) per user.
This is less than a quarter of the annual average value of Facebook access from any of the auction samples.
The researchers wrote: 'While the measurable impact Facebook and other free online services have on the economy may be small, our results show the benefits these services provide for their users are large.'
They also pointed out Facebook remains the top social networking site in the world and the third most visited site on the internet - after Google and YouTube.
This is despite market fluctuations and a series of controversies. The survey samples - somewhat skewed toward students - are not necessarily representative of all Facebook users.
But there was consistency in price valuation by users across the samples - and across different time frames, said the researchers.
The study was published in PLOS ONE.