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Cass R. Sunstein, Willingness to Pay to Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and More: A National Survey (June 7, 2018).

Abstract: There has been a great deal of discussion of the welfare effects of digital goods, including social media. The discussion bears on both private practice and potential regulation. A national survey, designed to monetize the benefits of a variety of social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram), found a massive disparity between willingness to pay and willingness to accept. The sheer magnitude of this disparity – a “superendowment effect” – suggests that in the context of the willingness to pay question, people are giving protest answers, signaling their intense opposition to being asked to pay for something that they had formerly enjoyed for free. Their answers are expressive, rather than reflective of actual welfare effects. There is also a question whether the willingness to accept measure tells us much about the actual effects of social media on people’s lives and experiences. It may greatly overstate those effects. In this context, there may well be a sharp disparity between conventional economic measures and actual effects on experienced well-being.