Using Facebook is a ‘Poverty Habit’?

According to a Business Insider article posted yesterday by Thomas C. Corley, poor people tend to spend more time on social media than rich people:

74% of those defined as poor spent more than an hour every day on the internet engaged in some sort of recreational activity, with 95% admitting to using sites like Facebook for recreational use… Only 37% of the wealthy in my study spent more than an hour a day on the internet engaged in recreational activities, and only 17% used sites like Facebook for recreation purposes.

Corley goes on to conclude that Facebook and “recreational Internet use” in general “has now become a Poverty Habit.”

But I really think Corley should have included a few caveats to this conclusion. He does not provide any explanation of the directional causation. Sure, poor people might very well use Facebook more than rich people, but that is only a correlation — it does not necessarily mean that using Facebook makes you poor.

Rich people spend more time on yachts than poor people, but I doubt that Corley would argue that yachting makes you richer!

Alternatively, there is another argument suggesting that rich people today have less leisure time than poor people. If this is true, we would expect “recreational Internet use” to be higher within lower income population (along with other low-cost leisure activities, such as watching television).

Corley, on the other hand, seems to assume that there is a direct, explicit causation here: “Our daily habits are the reason why we are rich, poor, or middle class.” I am sure Corley can find many people who will agree with this statement on an ideological level, but to superimpose this conclusion on a set of statistical correlations is really quite dubious. (It is probably worth pointing out that Corley’s data and results are not peer-reviewed nor academically published. His data comes from a personal study on the habits of rich people, from which, according to his website, he extrapolates insights to provide his readers with ‘the key to success and a happy future’.)

So, speaking of correlations, please remember this: adding a bunch of factual percentages and empirical graphs to your own presuppositions does not cause your presuppositions to be factual and empirical.

Thus endeth yet another rant on causation versus correlation. Thank you for listening.

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