Feature

4 surprising things Facebook has learned from your relationship status

For starters: Breaking up is less hard to do during summer

Facebook has a lot of data about its users, and it also has a data science division dedicated to transforming all that data into interesting information. They recently publicized a series of studies around the topic of love. While many of the results match up well with our expectations (e.g., people tend to marry within their religion), not all of them were so obvious. Here are some things Facebook has learned from looking at your relationship status.

1. THE AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SAME-SEX COUPLES IS LARGER

It was not too surprising to find that in male-female pairings the male is generally older (by an average of 2.4 years), or that in countries that scored worse on an index of gender equality, the age gap was wider (5.09 years in Egypt). However, despite the fact that same-sex couples don't have to contend with the same cultural expectations about gender and age, the age gap tended to be wider for those couples, reaching an average of eight or nine years at points.

2. PEOPLE BREAK UP IN THE SUMMER

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So you've both changed your statuses and made it official. How long is it likely to stay that way? Facebook found that the biggest predictor of how likely you are to stay together is how long you've been together already. For each month that passes, the probability of breaking up decreases. Not so surprising. But there were some interesting cyclical effects related to the timing of breakups, as seen on the graph. Summer seems to be the time for breakups. The extra large increase in breakups for the summer of 2011 may have something to do with the economic recovery.

3. IF YOU WANT TO GET INTO A RELATIONSHIP, COLORADO SPRINGS IS THE PLACE TO BE

It might seem like the best place for a single person to find a relationship would be a city where there were lots of other single people, but that's not necessarily the case. Cities that had the most single people (Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Memphis) also had low rates of relationship formation. Colorado Springs had the highest rate of relationship formation, followed by El Paso, Louisville, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. As Facebook data scientist Mike Develin put it, "in a city where everyone is paired up, the incentive to pair up is even stronger, while cities like New York and Miami are places that people go to be single."

4. GETTING DUMPED CAN REALLY KICK START YOUR FACEBOOK INTERACTIONS

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The data science team looked at people "who were on the receiving end of a separation" — they had been in a relationship for at least four weeks when their partner switched their relationship status to "Single." The number of interactions, including messages, posts, and comments received, showed a big spike on the day of separation, followed by an overall increased level of interaction that lasted for weeks afterwards. Facebook friends may not be the same thing as real-world friends, but they sure can come through for you when you need a boost.

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