Scary Math April 2014 • 2 minutes

I read an article recently about social media usage. The article focuses on the big four networks, being Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Having worked in social media, I still found some of the numbers rather surprising, which is what inspired this post on some scary math that can be derived from the stats in the article.

The first figure my scary math equation is based on is the numbers in the article for hours of Facebook usage, which have been cited and sourced from reputable sources. The article indicates that Facebook users spend around 10.5 billion minutes on the site every single day. In hours, that figure is around 175 million hours spent on the social network. If we assume that amount hasn’t changed throughout 2012, it amounts to just less than 64 billion hours spent on the site in a year.

The second figure my scary math equation involves is the average income per person in the world that works. We will assume that everyone who works makes the average wage in the world, which is $18,000.00 per year (source). We will assume that these people are working full time or 40 hours per week for a total of 2000 hours per year, valuing their time at around $9.00 per hour ($18,000.00 income per year/2000 hours total = $9/hour).

Based on those assumptions, the world could generate approximately $575 billion dollars a year in income based on the hours it spends on Facebook if it instead spent that time working. By contrast, satisfying the world hunger and sanitation requirements would cost about $13 billion dollars, plus some additional funds to make it sustainable, which is tiny in comparison to the amount of time (money) people burn through on Facebook.

Essentially, if everyone who works in the world worked an extra two minutes, once per year, got paid the average world wage for the work (in this case, $0.30), then invested that money in microfinance, we could wipe out hunger and lack of proper hygiene for good. I wouldn’t consider myself a save the world type of person, but that is some scary math worth considering.

If two minutes of working and a donation of $0.30 can make such a massive difference, imagine what we could achieve by instead working for one full hour more each year and investing that money in microfinance initiatives in developing countries, so that these people who are starving can build businesses and contribute to the world. The best part of microfinance is that you’re actually investing in a high-risk bank, which gives loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries, and you will on average make your money back with a profit.

Making money is good, saving the world from poverty is good. We could achieve this by working harder, and being aware of microfinance and the benefits more here, and perhaps putting any extra money we have into companies who are providing this type of financing.