How deep is your love?

Image of the sheet music from the Bee Gees song How deep is your love
As you may have noticed, there has been an increased interest lately regarding the impact of social media services on our privacy, on our information, and even on our elections and governments. Amid calls for increased regulation and oversight, there is speculation that social media companies may eventually be required to offer ad-free, subscription-based options for users willing to pay for a more private experience. 

So we were curious: How much do people value social media? 

Of course, one way to determine this would be to simply ask: “How much would you pay per month to use X?”. But, we believe that would not produce an accurate picture.

Why? Because people wouldn’t in fact be paying to use social media services; rather, they would be paying to not lose the social media services they already have. For many of us, social media is deeply integrated into our lives. We have important relationships with these services.

That means, to truly understand the value of social media in our lives, we need to take loss aversion into account. 

What’s loss aversion?

graphic showing dollar bills in a heart shapeFrom Wikipedia:
“In cognitive psychology and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it is better to not lose $5 than to find $5. The principle is very prominent in the domain of economics. What distinguishes loss aversion from risk aversion is that the utility of a monetary payoff depends on what was previously experienced or was expected to happen. Some studies have suggested that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.”

So, in light of the impact loss aversion may have, instead of asking “what would you pay to use it”, we asked “how much would we have to pay you to give it up?”

What would be a fair reward to give up using completely for 2 months?

Specifically, we used ResearchDesk™ to ask over 6,000 Americans if they would be willing to volunteer to abstain from using various social networks for a period of two months, and during that period, answer surveys about how it impacts their life. Additionally, for those that would be willing to abstain for a period of time, we asked if they would be willing to do it for free; and if not for free, how much money would we have to pay them to do it. Users entered whatever value felt right to them (capped at a reasonably high value).

The results were interesting.

Across all demographics, 31% of respondents wouldn’t even consider the program. Males were a little more likely to consider it (28% wouldn’t), as were those in the age group 25-34 (25% wouldn’t). Those aged 55 or more were the least likely to consider the program (43% wouldn’t). There was little difference to see depending on which social networks respondents had used.

Total Addicts

Grouped column chart showing the share of respondents, by age and gender, who would not give up using the network, no matter what the reward is

Respondents who would not give up using the network no matter what the reward

Having asked whether respondents would consider the program, we asked them whether they would consider it for each network they’d used. Here, we define an addict as someone who wouldn’t give up using the network for any reward.

In every segment, WhatsApp users were the least likely to consider giving it up for any reward, followed by Facebook and YouTube. Relatively fewer respondents dismissed the idea of giving up Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.


Grouped column chart showing the share of respondents by age and gender who would give up using the social network for no reward

Share of respondents who would give up using a network for no reward at all

We were surprised how many users of networks who would give up using the network for no reward. We suppose these are people who have so little love for the network that you might almost be doing them a favor to take it away.

YouTube, Facebook and Instagram were the least likely to be given up for no reward, though this was not true for Facebook in the youngest age group.

Male Snapchat users were much more likely than females to give up Snapchat for free.

WhatsApp users were, excepting in the oldest age group, happier to give up using WhatsApp than any other app.

It seems that people have either embedded WhatsApp into their lives, or they haven’t. Across all age and gender segmentations, WhatsApp users were the least likely to give up WhatsApp for a reward: they’d either give it up for free, or wouldn’t give it up.

So – what’s the most loved network?

For this analysis, we chose to quantify love as the share of users who would abstain from using the social media platform for less than $500. The winner has the least number of people who would voluntarily stop using the network for this amount.

Series of pie charts showing the price required to them to abstain from using a network

Distribution of respondents and the price required to get them to abstain

Gold: Facebook.

Half of Facebook users wouldn’t give up their use of the network even for $500. The least number of users would give up Facebook for nothing, and those that would wanted the most money.

Silver: YouTube.

YouTube isn’t far behind. $250 would get just over half of respondents to give up using it. But don’t let the millennials hear you say that – they are addicted.

Joint Bronze: WhatsApp and Instagram.

$500 would buy abstinence from just over 60% of users. But the nature of the love is different: WhatsApp is highly prized by many, but also has the greatest apathy.

Twitter and Snapchat are close runners up. Half the users of both networks would agree to abstain for about $100.