Watch out, Facebook stalkers – your social media platform of choice knows what’s going on with your love life pretty much at all times. Freaky? A little. Surprising? Not so much.
The data scientists at the Book of Face (because yes, Facebook does in fact have a team of scientists whose job it is to analyze the data of all the site’s users) recently penned a series of posts on their blog taking a look at how relationships behave in their little corner of the social media world. According to their findings, it’s apparently really easy to tell when two people are falling in love. Here’s how it works:
First, there’s a courtship: Facebook messages are exchanged, profiles are visited, and posts are shared on each other’s timelines. During the 100 days — roughly three to three and a half months — before a couple lists themselves as “In a relationship,” there’s a slow and steady increase of timeline posts shared. Love is literally on the rise, with a peak of 1.67 posts per day about 12 days before the relationship “officially” starts.
Then, the relationship begins: At “Day 0” — the day the couple lists themselves as in a relationship — timeline posts start decreasing. Writes data scientist Carlos Diuk, “Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.” That makes sense, though it doesn't account for those annoying people on my news feed who are seriously dating but weirdly use Facebook as a place to broadcast their undying love for each other rather than doing so in private, but I digress. Anyway, for the visual learners, here — have a graph illustrating the trend:
But don’t worry too much about the decrease in frequency — think quality, not quantity. Even though there are fewer posts, the content of the ones that do go up get “sweeter and more positive.” Facebook determined this trend by counting the proportion of words expressing positive emotions (“love,” “happy,” and so on) minus the proportion of words expressing negative emotions (“hate,” “bad,” etc.) for each post. Here’s another graph — look at that big ol’ uptick on day 0!
But if Facebook can determine when you’ll fall in love, it can also determine when you’ve broken up (beyond just noting when you changed your relationship status, that is). The good news is that there’s usually a huge outpouring of support from the friends and family of people who have split. This time, Facebook’s sample group consisted of people who had been “In a relationship” for at least four weeks before switching their relationship status to “Single.” For each person who fell under this umbrella, Facebook tracked the number of messages they sent and received, the number of posts from others on their timeline, and the number of comments from posts they themselves stuck on their timeline during the month before the separation and the month after. They found a giant spike in the data on the day of the separation, followed by a great deal of support in the month afterwards. Because graphs are awesome, here’s one more:
Like I said before, I’m not at all surprised by the fact that my social media platforms know this much about how my relationships are going, although I’ll admit that it makes me just a tiny bit uncomfortable. But hey, at least this time it’s not telling me I’ve only got 24 days to get married before I’m past my sell-by date, right?