When Princeton published a report that predicted Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017, the social network hit back in the nerdiest possible way. It got one of its data scientists to debunk it with a snarky blog post.
Earlier this week, researchers at Princeton University put out the results from a study they conducted which modeled Facebook’s popularity to that of how an infectious disease spreads. They predicted that like most infectious diseases, Facebook would grow, peak and eventually die out.
This would be interesting, if the researchers hadn’t used some questionable methodology to arrive at this conclusion. John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, from Princeton’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, based their findings by studying the number of times Facebook is typed into Google as a search term. They then used charts produced by Google Trends to show that searches for Facebook peaked in December 2012 and are now declining. This apparently closely resembles the curve created by the life cycle of an infectious disease spreading among the population.
In response, yesterday Facebook data scientist Mike Develin hit back by publishing the reports of his own study using the same methodology. But this time? The target is Princeton University.
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!
In keeping with the scientific principle “correlation equals causation,” our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.
Develin then goes on to model how no one will be talking about Princeton because they have declining Facebook page likes and that Google revealed that Princeton papers are being included less in professional journals. For the final twist, Develin writes that since he was able to prove a positive correlation between the Google Trends index and undergraduate enrollment, Princeton will basically cease to exist (since its search scores have been declining.)
Develin writes: 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.
Ouch. Your move Princeton.