With more than half of all Americans aged 12 or over on Facebook, it's no surprise the massive social network has revolutionized the way social scientists conduct and analyze research. The constantly growing body of information created by users as they update, connect, collect and communicate provides researchers with an easily accessible body of data right at their fingertips.
As a result, researchers now publish hundreds of studies on Facebook each year that reveal often surprising data about how social networking influences virtual and real-world relationships.
"We're on the cusp of a new way of doing social science," Harvard sociology professor Nicholas Christakis told The New York Times in a story examining the new link between Facebook and academic research. "Our predecessors could only dream of the kind of data we now have."
In 2011 alone, studies about Facebook or ones using Facebook as a primary source for data have offered insights into how the network affects happiness, how mothers use it to connect with their children, and what percentage of those same mothers end up hiding their profiles.
Unfortunately, it would be impossible to cover every Facebook surprise unveiled by studies over the last year. That said, we've whittled down the list to our top 7 surprising conclusions reached in 2011: