We all know that Facebook offers up-to-the-minute tracking of your (and everyone’s) relationship status. But could Facebook actually predict your breakup (and etc.) before it happens? It’s not psychic; nor, as science goes, is it rocket: remember, Facebook knows how and with whom you spend (or don’t spend) your virtual time. As the blog AllFacebook reports:
It’s an inside half-truth that many friends of Mark Zuckerberg have told me over the years: Facebook knows when a relationship is about to end. My response was to always ask more questions as it actually sounded like a legitimate possibility. In David Kirkpatrick’s soon to be released book, “The Facebook Effect“, Kirkpatrick confirms that relationship patterns were something that Mark Zuckerberg often toyed with.
In the book, Kirkpatrick writes:
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.
Are you busy chatting with another girl instead of your girlfriend? Are you being tagged in a lot of photos with the same person? Facebook has a lot of information about who you are viewing regularly (or lusting over) as well as what your communication patterns are. While the company is not actively charting most users’ communication patterns for determining the future of your relationship, they are actively monitoring your behavior on the site to determine what should be displayed in the feed.
Of course, 33 percent, while impressive, is not scary accurate. And there’s a wide margin of error. Depending on how you use Facebook, for example, your lovah’s profile might be the one you look at least, given that you, you know, see them. (In fact, at least one expert says partners shouldn’t be “friends” in the first place. (“It’s a terrible idea for spouses to be Facebook friends with each other,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., co-author, with Heidi Raykeil, of [best self-help title EVER!] Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide to Getting It On Again. “Relationships are already filled with enough banality. I want to preserve what little mystery there is, which means I don’t need to see my wife’s latest check-in with her third-grade pals on her Superwall.”)
That said — though BG eschews unexamined anti-FB or “technology is eeevil” pile-on — we do know that, given its endless started-out-innocent opps for flirting and reconnecting with the one(s) who got away, Facebook can also = Homewreck. So it’s not like Facebook would need to uncrumple the receipts on your dresser to know what’s up.
And so, AllFacebook wonders, could there be an app for this?
Could you imagine using the site and then receiving a notification that the system has automatically determined that your relationship could be on thin ice? While it may provide useful to know, it would be extremely creepy to find out. For now, I wouldn’t expect to see any “relationship strength tool” integrated into the site, but it’s definitely interesting to know that it’s potentially something Facebook could project. Would you want to know how strong your relationship is based on your own Facebook behavior?
But here’s the real question:
Don’t you probably already know how strong it is without Facebook telling you?