What Facebook Knows About Your Love Life

  • Thursday, March 27 2014 @ 07:01 am
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File this one under “Cool Or Creepy?”

It’s no surprise that Facebook gathers a lot of data about its users, but what is surprising is the conclusions the site can draw by interpreting that information. Of course Facebook knows when you’re “Single,” when you’re “In A Relationship,” or when “It’s Complicated,” but it turns out the social networking site actually knows a whole lot more than that about your love life.

Facebook data scientist Mike Develin works on the site’s search function, studying how people use it, what they’re searching for that isn't available, and how to make it more useful. Along the way, Develin and his team noticed some intriguing romance-related patterns.

It starts with a period of courtship. On Facebook, ‘courtship’ means messages are exchanged, profiles are visited, and posts are shared on each other's timelines. During the 100 days before the relationship starts, there is a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. The peak is reached 12 days before the relationship begin, at 1.67 posts per day

At “Day 0,” when the relationship officially begins, a couple’s Facebook interactions start to decline. Presumably because they are now spending more time together in person, the happy couple feels less need to communicate online. The lowest point is 1.53 posts per day, reached 85 days into the relationship. Along with that decrease in Facebook interactions comes good news about the content: the interactions may be fewer, but they also get sweeter and more positive. Warm fuzzy feelings are dramatically on the upswing after Day 0.

On the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy side is the breakup data. The research team also took a look at couples who split up and got back together, and documented the saga on their profiles. The maximum, Develin reports to USA Today, was a couple who went in and out of a relationship 27 times in one year. Yikes. It’s a good thing Facebook also found an increase in private messages, timeline posts, and comments from supportive friends during tough times.

What all this means is that horoscopes won’t accurately predict lasting love any time soon, but Facebook might. "We have such a wide-ranging set of data, including on places there may not be data on otherwise," Develin told USA Today. And because Facebook knows so much about its users’ authentic identity, there is very little territory its researchers couldn’t explore. The patterns they identify could be instrumental in mapping human interactions and proving or disproving theories about relationships. 

For more on how to use this social network to find dates you should read our Facebook review.