Facebook can help you find love
You know that phenomenon when you or someone you know starts a new relationship and suddenly drops off the face of the planet? Friends, family and everything but the essentials of life (I guess he or she still has to show up at work) are suddenly discarded in the name of love, and you don’t hear from the amorous parties for months on end.
Well, apparently the big brains at Facebook can now chart this experience via an initial increase and then a severe drop in the frequency of posts made by courting couples who eventually consummate their relationship.
Looking at a sample of timeline posting data between 2010 and 2017, data scientists discovered a gradual yet steady increase in posts and profile visits of couples who ultimately change their “single” Facebook status to “in a relationship,” and then celebrate (online, of course) their relationship anniversary dates thereafter. And just like in the real world, once the happy couple gets together (“offline hookups,” for those of you who have never experienced it), all of those flirtatious posts fall away in favor of contact in the flesh. Really? Meeting in person? That’s so 20th century.
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Facebook, in its research, also noticed that as people build up to a relationship, posts become much “sweeter and more positive. “ Words like “happy” and “love” increase, while words with negative connotations, like “bad” and “hurt,” decrease. Depending on your view of online privacy as opposed to the “magic” of human connections, this information is either incredibly endearing and life affirming — or yet another creepy example of how the digital world likes to mine personal data in order to create better consumers out of us all.
While I have no idea what the data scientists working for Mark Zuckerberg plan on doing with this information; the potential for indulging in some meddlesome mischief and relationship tampering seems pretty high.
If the ultimate goal is to keep as many eyes glued to Facebook as possible, posting and interacting with as many other users a possible, happy couples just might need to be destroyed. As we all know from watching “The Social Network,” Facebook is all about killer algorithms.
So, sure, let people court and hookup, but in the interest of not letting them drift away, perhaps algorithms can be constructed (or perhaps already have) to ruin relationships. Maybe “accidently” show users posts from exes or folks who are potential new matches or unflattering posts and pictures of the person they’ve just connected with (in reality, that is) or tempt them with sin via their newsfeeds with links to dating services and local strip clubs. Perhaps the newsfeed of someone newly in love suddenly gets filled up with articles about who cheats, how often, and why. Or stories about the benefits of staying single or an abrupt rise in STDs in the region where the person happens to live …
The potential to do harm here is fairly large. Facebook has the data. Whether it chooses to use it for good, evil or simple monetary gain is entirely up to it.