Facebook data scientist Mike Develin has brushed off a claim the social network will lose 80 per cent of its following by the end of 2014 and die out by 2017.

HumanIPO reported yesterday on the claims, made in a study published by two Princeton University doctoral candidates, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler.

The students, whose study has not yet undergone the peer reviewing process, likened social platforms such as Facebook to a disease, saying “ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out”.

The researchers used search query results for Facebook in order to map the “adoption and abandonment phases” of the social network between 2004 and the date of the study’s publication.

“Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 per cent of its maximum size by December 2014,” the researchers said in their paper.

Develin has responded by posting an article entitled Debunking Princeton, in which the data scientist uses the same “correlation equals causation” principle as the Princeton study to prove the university is in danger of losing all of its students by 2021.

Using the decline of Facebook “likes”, the number of scholarly articles on Google Scholar and its Google Trends Index, Develin and his team were able to provide a visual representation of the institutions decline in popularity.

“This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all, agreeing with the previous graph of scholarly scholarliness. Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth,” the Facebook scientist joked.

His team were able to use the same principles to show that Google Trends for “air” were also steadily declining.

Develin called for distinctions to be made between reliable scientific methods and those that can produce outlandish results.

“We don’t really think Princeton or the world’s air supply is going anywhere soon. We love Princeton (and air). As data scientists, we wanted to give a fun reminder that not all research is created equal – and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions.”