Meet the web's latest relationship expert: Facebook.
By analyzing changes in users' relationship statuses in 2010 and 2011, the social network's data team has unearthed some noteworthy patterns that offer insights into the ways people break up and hook up throughout the year. The data also sheds light on just how much information Facebook has about even the most personal matters in our lives.
Facebook researchers compared the number of users who changed their relationship status from a "non-coupled" status to a "coupled" status (i.e. single to engaged), as well as those who went from coupled to non-coupled, in an attempt to uncover the boom and bust periods for relationships.
The summer months have a chilling effect on romances, Facebook found. "In 2010 and 2011, May through August were clearly lower than the other months of the year, suggesting the daily net change in relationships reaches a low during the summer," Facebook writes in its blog post. While other months saw a net increase in relationships, the summer months tended to have a greater number of breakups.
New couples outnumber the freshly-solo around Valentine's Day and Christmas. Facebook recorded 49 percent more new relationships than break-ups on February 14 and 34 percent more on December 25.
Relationships tend hit a rough spot at the end of the week -- Friday and Saturday saw "relatively more" splits, especially among users over 25 -- but romance blossoms over the weekend. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are the top days for new couples to declare their "coupled" status.
Of course, there are a few blindspots in the data, as users might choose to hide their relationship status altogether. Prank hook-ups are also common: Facebook notes "[t]he fifth biggest day for a net increase in relationships was April 1st, or April Fool's Day, which saw 20% more relationship initiations than splits. But unsurprisingly, many of these appear to be short-lived: April 2nd was the year's most extreme day in the other direction, with 11% more break-ups than new relationships."
The findings offer insights into our relationships with our significant others, as well as our relationship with Facebook. The data hints at the extent to which the social network has become all-seeing and all-knowing, able to use data to understand our behavior, perhaps even better than we might understand it ourselves.
There's nothing new about this: Facebook has always known who we're most interested in checking up on online, as well as who we're chatting with, who we've stopped talking to, and who we're researching.
David Kirkpatrick notes in The Facebook Effect that Mark Zuckerberg was able to use data about its users to predict -- maybe even before the individuals could -- when a break-up was looming:
As the service’s engineers built more and more tools that could uncover such insights, Zuckerberg sometimes amused himself by conducting experiments. For instance, he concluded that by examining friend relationships and communications patterns he could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now. To deduce this he studied who was looking which profiles, who your friends were friends with, and who was newly single, among other indicators.
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