Facebook users would require an average of more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year, according to a study.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, assessed Facebook’s value to its users, in contrast to its market value or its contribution to gross domestic product.
Researchers from Tufts University in the US used a series of auctions in which people were actually paid to close their accounts for as little as one day or as long as one year.
Facebook, with more than two billion global users, is among the social media websites that provide access at no cost.
The researchers found that Facebook users would require an average of more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year.
“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 Jay Corrigan, a professor at Kenyon College in the US.
“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,” Corrigan said.
The researchers ran three actual auctions, including two samples of college students, a community sample, and an online sample.
Winners were paid upon proof that their membership was deactivated for the set period of time.
“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,” said Sean B Cash, a professor at Tufts University.
“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,” Cash said.
The study contrasts the company’s market capitalisation with the value placed on it by its users, researchers said.
For example, based on a market valuation of about $420 billion, and about 2.2 billion users, the market value of Facebook would be approximately $190 per user, or less than one-fourth of the annual average value of Facebook access from any of the auction samples, researchers said.