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Facebook can predict breakups, study shows

Categories: Community, Science & Technology

 Researchers were able to make key observations about the health of a relationship based on the concept of 'dispersion.' (iStock)A new study out of Cornell University in conjunction with Facebook shows that the social network may know far more about your love life than what your relationship status indicates.

According to researchers Jon Kleinberg and Lars Backstrom, Facebook can actually predict with startling accuracy who you're dating at any given time based solely on your social connections.

In some cases, it can even predict a forthcoming breakup.

But it's not simply the amount of mutual friends two people have in common that determine their offline compatibility.

After studying the profiles of 1.3-million Facebook users, researchers developed a new network measure they call "dispersion."

They say that this measure can accurately predict a person's love connection with another contact up to 50 per cent of the time - and 60 per cent in the case of married couples.

"Our measure of dispersion looks not just at the number of mutual friends of two people, but also at the network structure on these mutual friends," the authors write. "Roughly, a link between two people has high dispersion when their mutual friends are not well connected to one another."

In other words, a healthy love interest will share friends with you from many different social circles: family, highschool friends, neigbours, college classmates, co-workers, sports teams, and so on.

Interestingly, the researchers were also able to make key observations about the strength of a relationship based on their methodology.

The more dispersion couples in a declared (as in Facebook official) relationship demonstrated, the more likely it was that that relationship would still be around be around 60 days later. And when the algorithm fails? Well, that relationship may be in trouble.

Researchers found that couples listed as "in a relationship" but without high dispersion on the site were 50 per cent more likely to break up (change their relationship status to "single") during a period of 60 days than a couple with a high dispersion.

"Dispersion is a structural means of capturing the notion that a friend spans many contexts in one's social life," reads the paper's conclusion, "either because they were present throughout multiple life stages, or because they have been systematically introduced into multiple social circles." 

Unfortunately, there is no simple tool available to couples who wish to test their dispersion rate. Do you think that your relationship would stand up to the test? Share your thoughts below.

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