Facebook users especially teenagers and young adults significantly overestimate how much time they spend on the social network in a day and underestimate the number of times they visit the platform, the company has revealed after scanning through available data.
For example, Facebook found that people overestimate how much time they spent on Facebook by an average of 3.2 hours per day.
Self-reported time spent was only moderately correlated with actual Facebook use.
“Some questions caused underestimation, while others caused overestimation. Only 27 per cent were able to respond accurately even on the best-performing question,” Facebook said in a paper titled “How Well Do People Report Time Spent on Facebook?”
To reach this conclusion, the Facebook team evaluated common survey questions from the available literature.
The social network with over 2.7 billion monthly active users globally found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the more likely it was that they misreported their time.
“People often ask whether spending time on social media is good or bad for us. To answer this question, researchers need accurate ways to measure how much time people spend on platforms like Facebook, among other things,” the company said in a blog post on Thursday.
Facebook compared data from 10 self-reported Facebook-use survey measures deployed in 15 countries against data from the server logs belonging to the social network.
“Teens and young adults have more error reporting their time on Facebook, which is notable because of the high reliance on college-aged samples in many fields,” Facebook said.
Because self-reports of time spent are imprecise, the social networking giant suggested that to find better results, researchers should “interpret people’s self-reported time spent as a noisy estimate of where they fall on a distribution relative to other respondents”.