Why I’m increasingly skeptical toward every “Facebook study” published on Mashable and elsewhere

facebookToday we received the stunning news from All Facebook that “83 Percent Of Prostitutes Have Facebook Pages.”

I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of every single “Facebook study” that emerges, especially since few of them actually give any insight into how the scientist collected data. The findings in this prostitute study are unclear: Is he saying that 83% of prostitutes have Facebook profiles or pages? If it’s just the former or a combination of the two, then that’s relatively unremarkable given that Facebook is ubiquitous in the US. That’s like telling me that 83% of prostitutes have used Google. If it’s the latter, then I’m extremely skeptical that 83% of prostitutes are advertising their services on a Facebook page given the difficulty of collecting such data. How was he able to accurately poll prostitutes who simply work on the streets (as opposed to working for escort services)?

More importantly, when is every social media blog, from Mashable to All Facebook, going to start showing some real skepticism toward every yokel wanting to get a quick shot of publicity by throwing up a poorly researched Facebook case study? The New Yorker recently published a piece on the decline effect with the scientific method, but at least its story focused on peer-reviewed studies. In the tech blogosphere, we never even have to learn a study’s methodology.

UPDATE: TechCrunch commenter MelanieR hit the nail on the head with this lazy sensationalism with these studies.

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