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Researchers Draw Romantic Insights From Maps of Facebook Networks

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representation of a person's Facebook network neighborhood

A graphical representation of one person's network neighborhood on Facebook.

Credit: Cameron Marlow / Facebook

The shape of a person's social network is a powerful signal that can identify one's spouse or romantic partner, according to Cornell University's Jon Kleinberg and Facebook engineer Lars Backstrom.

The researchers analyzed Facebook data from 1.3 million users, selected randomly from all users who are at least 20 years old, with between 50 and 2,000 friends, and who list a spouse or relationship partner in their profile. The data analysis resulted in about 379 million nodes and 8.6 billion links. The researchers found that the total number of mutual friends two people share is a fairly weak indicator of a romantic relationship, while a better indication is a network measure known as dispersion. High dispersion occurs when a couple's mutual friends are not well connected to one another.

"A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person's different social worlds," Kleinberg says. The dispersion algorithm was able to correctly identify a user's spouse 60 percent of the time. The algorithm also was able to identify people who declare themselves to be "in a relationship" 33 percent of the time.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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