I’m even more glad that I don’t share my relationship status because a new study has come out with some really creepy information. According to the New York Times, Cornell University computer scientist Jon Kleinberg and Facebook senior engineer Lars Backstrom claim that the social network can actually identify your relationship.
Kleinberg and Backstrom penned a research paper that took data from “1.3 million Facebook users, selected randomly from among all users who are at least 20 years old, with from 50 to 2,000 friends, who list a spouse or relationship partner in their profile.” This paper explains that embededdness, which is the total number of mutual friends people have, isn’t a good way to determine relationship partners on social profiles. Instead, the real indicator is dispersion, about which Kleinberg says “A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person’s different social worlds.”
When couples have a high dispersion, it basically means that they have a very spread out variety of mutual friends. So if you’re friends with your boyfriend on Facebook and have a high dispersion, you’re might be mutual friends with each other’s high school friends, parents, childhood friends, etc.
Kleinberg and Backstrom created an algorithm that could correctly identify someone’s romantic partner sixty percent of the time through dispersion. What’s creepier is that it can identify your partner even if you only have your status as “in a relationship.” And it can do it 1 out of 3 times.
This isn’t the creepiest thing of all, though. Through the dispersion algorithm, Facebook can determine which relationships are doomed to fail based on dispersion. According to their research, “A couple in a declared relationship and without a high dispersion on the site are 50 percent more likely to break up over the next two months than a couple with a high dispersion, the researchers found.”
At first, I was all “No way” on this whole study. But if you think about it, it kinda makes sense. If you’re in a relationship, you’re also building other relationships with each others’ mutual friends and expanding your social networks.
But at the same time, I still feel like this isn’t totally accurate. I’ve rarely set my relationship status on Facebook or really expanded my social network into my significant other’s and have had successful, long-term relationships. I think these studies are cool, but honestly, I don’t think Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg can really determine that much about our personal lives.
What do you think about this study? Do you think Facebook can predict your relationships? Tell us in the comments!