How much money would someone have to pay you to quit Facebook? Study suggests it's $1,000

A facebook display during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China, November 5, 2018. 
Aly Song | Reuters

A new study in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE implies that, for the most part, Facebook's 2.27 billion monthly active users are willing to look past recent privacy and data security controversies, and the social media site's role in facilitating the spread of fake news. In fact, to get the average user to stop logging on, you'd have to pay them money — a lot of it.

Through a series of real-life auctions, researchers found that the "average Facebook user would require more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year."

Although the #DeleteFacebook movement took off last year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and more recent concerns arose when news broke that the site allowed other tech companies, such as Netflix and Spotify, to read users' private messages, this study suggests that a lot of users are still hooked.

Essentially, users think Facebook is "so fun and so useful that [they're] willing to set aside their privacy concerns," lead author Jay Corrigan, a professor of economics at Kenyon College, tells CNBC Make It.

It's so fun and so useful that users are willing to set aside their privacy concerns.
Jay Corrigan
professor of economics at Kenyon University

The researchers held three auctions for the study. Winners were paid to deactivate their accounts for as briefly as an hour or as long as a year. Participants didn't have to give up other apps in the Facebook network, such as Messenger and Instagram.

The participants are not a perfect representation of Facebook users overall, the researchers note. Two of the auctions were in-person and consisted of samples of college students and non-student community members. The other auction was online. If the researchers had done a hypothetical survey instead, it could have been more representative, but then there wouldn't have been real money on the line.

"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," co-author Sean B. Cash, an economist at Tufts University, said in a press release.

Participants in this experiment seemed to value Facebook highly, but the study doesn't examine what about it they value. The social network offers ways to stay in touch with friends, plan and discover events, share photos and more.

There's also evidence to suggest that social media can make you less productive, more insecure and, ironically, less social. "Just because we spend a lot of time on social media doesn't necessarily mean that it's good for us," Corrigan says.

In 2017, former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said he believes the company "overwhelmingly does good in the world" but, he noted, his children "aren't allowed to use that s---."

Some Facebook users who are aware of the downsides are trying to wean themselves off of the platform. "I know from talking to some of people who won our auctions and were paid to deactivate their accounts that they thought of it as a way to force themselves to go on a social media diet," Corrigan says, "either because they knew they needed to spend less time online or because they just wanted to see if they could do it."

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