The (Facebook) Link Between Your Friends And Your Significant Other
For two years, researchers tracked over a million Facebook adults who were married or "in a relationship." Among many findings, they learned that the more mutual friends a couple had, the more likely it was that they'd break up.
Facebook senior engineer Lars Backstrom and Cornell computer scientist Jon Kleinberg spent two years checking in on over a million Facebook users aged 20 or older who listed themselves as “married” or “in a relationship” and had between 50 and 2,000 friends. They did this check-in once every two months, and among the many things they learned — and described in a new paper available on Cornell’s arXiv Web site — was that couples who shared the same groups of tightly-knit friends were 50 percent more likely to break up within a two-month period than those whose circles of friends didn’t overlap as strongly.
What’s the Big Idea?
Backstrom’s job involves managing engineering for Facebook’s News Feed, and a study like this could help the social network deliver more relevant content to individual feeds. He and Kleinberg noticed that a typical user’s friends list might consist of people that person met through work or school, and those groups would contain people who were likely to be connected to each other as well. Meanwhile, the significant other would serve as “a bridge between a person’s different social worlds,” says Kleinberg.