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What Facebook Data Can Tell Us About Relationships

By now it’s no secret that lots of people use Facebook. As of October 2014, Facebook had 1.35 billion monthly users, with 864 million people logging on each day. Take a moment to think about this. It means that each month, 1 out of every 5 people on the planet uses Facebook, and each day more than 10% of the planet’s population signs into Facebook either to read or post.

It’s also no secret that Facebook is collecting data about you. They collect data about what you post, what you like, what you change on your profile, what you read, and even more, especially if you use Facebook on a mobile device. For many of us, this is a small price to pay to stay connected to our friends and family around the world and to look at some funny cat pictures. But did you know that Facebook has an entire division devoted to crunching all that data they collect? If you’re interested in the kinds of things Facebook tracks and how they use that data, take a look a Facebook Data Science.

Facebook Collects Relationship Data

One feature of Facebook is that you can not only show your relationship status, but you can link that status to the person with whom you are in a relationship. Naturally, Facebook tracks this data, and their data scientists use the massive amount of relationship data generated by those 1.35 billion users to draw some interesting conclusions.

For example, did you know that Colorado Springs is the number one city for the probability of a single person forming a new relationship? You might think this means that there are a lot of single people there, but interestingly, the data actually says that the higher the percentage of single people in a given city, the lower the probability of relationship formation.

Seasonal Relationship Trends

Facebook can also tell us when folks are more likely to break up. Early March and mid-December appear to be the peak break-up times according to Facebook status updates, so this time of year may be especially hard, but the good news is that break-ups take a nosedive right around the holidays, as well as during the summer months.

On a happier note, Facebook data also shows that the peak days for relationship formation are Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This same analysis tells us that there are generally net losses in relationships generated during the summer months and net gains at the beginning and end of the year, across all age ranges.

Tracking Facebook

Changes in relationship status are just one data point that Facebook collects. They also track interactions between users, such as messages or posting to one another’s Facebook timeline. Facebook has compared this data and come up with some interesting information. Facebook identifies the start of a relationship as “day zero.” In the days leading up to day zero, interactions across two users’ timelines increases, peaking about 12 days before the relationship starts. Timeline interaction then starts to steadily decrease hitting its lowest point about two and a half months after the relationship is formed.

Facebook doesn’t stop there though; they also track and analyze the content of your interactions. Yes, Facebook is looking at, analyzing, and drawing conclusions not only about what you do while on Facebook but what you actually say. While interactions between couples decrease after they’ve entered a relationship, the content of these interactions becomes more positive. Facebook data scientists created an algorithm to analyze the “sweetness” of timeline posts between couples. The data showed a marked increase in sweetness between couples leading up to the start of a relationship, with a huge peak of sweetness on days zero and one.

Facebook also looked at how people interact with their friends around the time that they have a change in relationship status. It appears that people receive support from and lean on their friends around the time of and after a breakup. On the day that people go from “in a relationship” to “single,” their interactions with other users jump almost 225%, and even more tellingly, for the next month their levels of interaction remain at higher levels than they were pre-breakup. It seems that even in the digital age, reaching out to loved ones for support during tough times remains the way many people deal with emotional changes.

Posted January 27, 2015

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