Is Facebook the Latest Tool for Predicting Love?

Put away those Tarot cards, close your ephemeris and pack away your crystal ball. According to the latest data revealed by Facebook’s data science team and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University, a couple’s Facebook activity can tell us a lot about which direction their relationship is heading. Obviously millions of couples have profiles on Facebook and unlike research in the past which has been mostly compiled by on-line dating sites, Facebook users are comprised not only of couples who have met online – but via every possible way we can think of. By analysing the data from status updates, Facebook and Kleinberg have been able to identify which couples are set for lasting love – and those who are heading for separate rooms in Heartbreak Hotel.

The most interesting fact to emerge from the study was that couples who shared the most common interests were the ones most likely to stay together – not having lots of friends in common. It was normal for most couples to have different friends in lots of social groups however that did not necessarily overlap. So, if you are worried that your squeeze is going to dump or de-friend you, suggesting they add your family, friends and co-workers isn’t going to slow down impending doom.

You don’t need to be psychic or a data scientist or even be surprised to hear that couples who appear in lots of pictures together or who check out each other’s activity scored higher (70%) than those who didn’t. But again, the researchers were keen to point out that taking loads of photos of your partner (with or without you) and posting them did nothing to stall a break-up from occurring if that was the direction the relationship was heading. But as far as predicting if a friend’s relationship (or even your own) is heading south, then the team found that couples stopping appearing in pictures together or commenting on each other’s status was a telling sign.

They also gathered data on whether any particular time of year was a busy one for break-ups and discovered that the summer months are the most likely period for changing your status to ‘single’. This of course could be due to the fact that many Facebook users are college or university students and with the freedom of the summer break looming, cut loose. However, they did note a drop in break-ups around Valentine’s Day so beleaguered couples may just last long enough to enjoy one last wine and roses day before calling it quits.

So, before you rush on-line checking out all your friend’s profiles – what did the study reveal about lasting love? Aside from having interests in common it really does appear time is on our side. The researchers found that the longer a couple has been together, the more likely they are to stay together. “About half of all Facebook relationships that have survived three months are likely to survive to four years or longer,” the team reported on their own Facebook blog post. This fits in with what psychology tells us about relationships in that it takes around 90 days for us to really get to know the person we are with properly. So, if we make it to that milestone we are more likely to be in for the long haul. Obviously, if you have been Facebook stalking your ex and she or he has been in their new relationship for 90 days now or more, you might want to bear this statistic in mind and move on!

Data is always interesting especially when it backs up psychology. But at the end of the day when it comes to predicting love, I always believe it is our own intuition which is the most accurate. When you think back over your past relationships, chances are you knew if it wasn’t going to last – even if you didn’t want to believe it and hoped it wasn’t true. All of us can face relationship issues but again, we usually know deep down inside whether we are going to survive them – or not. Data can back up our intuition and Facebook can provide us with yet another tool to gauge the health of our relationships and also hone our intuitive skills while doing so. Chances are next time you see a photo of a friend with their partner on your Facebook feed you’ll be able to tell exactly where the relationship is heading just by looking at it!

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