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January 24, 2014

Facebook Responds to Princeton With Tongue-in-Cheek Study of its Own

Credit: Matt Harnack / Facebook

Facebook is taking the humorous approach to address a study out of Princeton that all but predicts the social network’s demise by 2017.

Facebook data scientists Mike Devlin, Lada Adamic and Sean Taylor employed the same methods — epidemiological modeling and Google Trends — used by Princeton PhD students Joshua Spechler and Johan Cannarella to indicate that perhaps the pair should, in fact, be more worried about the future of their school.

“In keeping with the scientific principle ‘correlation equals causation,’ our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely,” they wrote in a post on Facebook.

If Spechler’s and Cannarella’s method of determining longevity is reliable, then Princeton will be extinct by 2021, Facebook’s scientists discovered.

See chart below:

facebook chart 1

Princeton’s Google Trends search scores have been declining for the last several years, the data scientists added, which suggests the university will have “only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all.”

“Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth,” they wrote.


“While we are concerned for Princeton University, we are even more concerned about the fate of the planet — Google Trends for ‘air’ have also been declining steadily, and our projections show that by the year 2060 there will be no air left.”


The study by Spechler and Cannarella, dubbed ‘Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics,’ said Facebook’s popularity crested in 2012 and has now “entered a decline phase.”

“The future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017,” the pair wrote.

The study has been the source of much amusement online, particularly as the students used epidemiological modeling, which is used to trace the growth patterns of infectious diseases, as well as Google search query data to ascertain popularity.

The study, which has not yet been reviewed, is unlikely to hold up to the scrutiny of experts, although the PhD students may score points for creativity.

Facebook also noted its own study on Princeton’s future was not peer reviewed, so the data scientists asked Facebook members to take on that job.

“Although this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, every Like for this post counts as a peer review,” they wrote. “Start reviewing!”

The trio added a tongue-in-cheek P.S. to the end of their findings: “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.”


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.