Experimental auction shows consumers' dependence on social media

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The study found it would cost over $1,000 for consumers to walk away from Facebook

While many studies over the last several years have explored consumers’ addiction or dependence on social media, a recent study sought to find out just how much social media is worth to users.

After conducting experimental auctions, researchers found that getting users to cancel their Facebook accounts for one year would cost over $1,000.

“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,” said researcher Jay Corrigan. “We know people must derive tremendous value from Facebook or they wouldn’t 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.”

Auction results

This project initially started as two different ventures that included researchers from several different universities; however, the groups came together to publish their results.

The researchers ran three auctions that included one online sample, two samples of college students, and one local community sample. In each auction, participants were paid to cancel their Facebook accounts for one year.

One auction included both college students and local community members, both from a large midwestern town. For the community members in this group, it would cost over $1,100 to cancel Facebook for a year, while the college students wouldn’t do it for less than $2,076.

Another auction included only college students, and it showed that it would cost anywhere from $1,500 to $1,900 for them to cancel their Facebook accounts for one year.

The final auction included online responses from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. In this group, most of the participants were in their early 30s, and the average bid to cancel Facebook for one year was close to $2,000.

Across the board, students placed Facebook in a higher regard than others in the study. However, the researchers also noted that some participants refused to bid at all, which signified that they wouldn’t be comfortable cancelling their profiles for any amount of time.

Overall, the researchers explained that people are placing a very large value on the social media platform.

“While the measurable impact Facebook and other free online services have on the economy may be small, our results show that the benefits these services provide for their users are large,” the study’s authors wrote.

Technology addiction

While teens have been found to struggle the most with technology addiction, using social media and electronic devices in a healthy way is important for all consumers.

A recent study found that many people check Facebook so incessantly because of the positive feelings they feel afterwards.

The researchers found that many consumers are constantly chasing that feeling of a positive reward that comes with checking Facebook, and it’s very likely that they’ll become addicted to it over time.

“People are learning this reward feeling when they get to Facebook,” said researcher Allison Eden. “What we show with this study is that even with something as simple as the Facebook logo, seeing the Facebook wall of a friend or seeing anything associated with Facebook, is enough to bring that positive association back.”

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