Facebook Pokes Fun at Princeton, Debunks Study

Facebook Smackdown
One of several graphs Facebook posted debunking the Princeton study.

Last week Princeton researchers released a study saying Facebook would lose 80 percent of its users by 2017.  The story, which was not peer-reviewed, was covered widely in the media. Now Facebook’s data scientists have turn the tables on Princeton, using the study’s flawed methodology of tracking Google search volume against Princeton to show how ridiculous the study was.

The Princeton study claimed that since the volume of Google searches for “Facebook” began declining in 2012, it must mean there’s an ongoing decline in Facebook usage.

In the early days of Facebook, people surfed the social network by Googling “Facebook” or “Facebook Login”. Now the majority of Facebook users get Facebook by opening the app on their mobile devices. Facebook currently has almost 1.2 billion users, and more than half of them access Facebook on their mobile devices.

In the Facebook note posted late this afternoon titled “Debunking Princeton”, Facebook data scientist Mike Develin has some fun turning the tables on Princeton.

“Like many of you, we were intrigued by a recent article by Princeton researchers predicting the imminent demise of Facebook. Of particular interest was the innovative use of Google search data to predict engagement trends, instead of studying the actual engagement trends. Using the same robust methodology featured in the paper, we attempted to find out more about this “Princeton University” – and you won’t believe what we found!” wrote Develin. “In keeping with the scientific principle `correlation equals causation,’ our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.”

Develin goes on to compare Facebook likes for Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.

He applies the same methodology the Princeton study used and applies it to Google Scholar articles matching the query “Princeton” by year. He also looks at Princeton’s Google Trend search scores and says there is a strong correlation between undergraduate enrollment if an institution and its Google Trend scores.

“Sadly, this spells bad news for this Princeton entity, whose Google Trends search scores have been declining for the last several years,” Develin wrote. “This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all, agreeing with the previous graph of scholarly scholarliness. Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth.”

Develin goes on to say that Google Trends for “air” have also been declining steadily, and that unsung the Princeton study’s methodology, projections show that by the year 2060 there will be no air left,.

“Although this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, every Like for this post counts as a peer review. Start reviewing!,” Develin wrote, ending his takedown of the Princeton study with a p.s. “We don’t really think Princeton or the world’s air supply is going anywhere soon. We love Princeton (and air). As data scientists, we wanted to give a fun reminder that not all research is created equal – and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions.”