Facebook Can Figure Out Who You're Dating and When You'll Break Up

Facebook Can Figure Out Who You're Dating and When You'll Break Up

Jon Kleinberg, researcher and computer science professor from Cornell University, and Lars Backstrom, senior engineer from Facebook, have developed an algorithm that that can identify who you’re dating and if you’re in  danger of breaking up.

The researchers wanted to see if a Facebook user’s romantic partner could be accurately determined by examining the network of friends within his or hers Facebook profile.

The researchers analyzed data from a proximately 1.3 million Facebook users.  The Facebook users where at least 20 years of age, had between 50 and 2000 friends and marked their Facebook profile status as “in a relationship” The profiles also indicated that their romantic partner was included in the “friends” profile.

The two researchers examined the connection between people who have a different sets of friends.  Close friends, and family members tend to share the same sets of friends, interact with them frequently and share common similarities.  The term social scientist use for this type of interconnection is “embeddedness”.

What was discovered was that people in romantic relationships tend to have social circles that don’t overlap.  The romantic partners acted more like bridges to each others sets of friends.   The level of embeddedness found between the friends of the couples was low.  Jon Kleinberg and Lars Backstrom came up with a term for this, called “dispersion”.  Dispersion occurs when two people’s mutual friends are not themselves well-connected.

The dispersion algorithm was able to determine the identity of the romantic partner 60 percent of the time, compared to just 2 percent with random guessing.

What they also discovered was that couples who couldn’t be identified using the dispersion method where 50 percent more likely to break up within the following 60 day period.  Basically, couples who share close friends tended to fair poorly according to the study.

[Cornell University Library] [NY Times Blog]

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