Things Facebook learns from your relationship status changes

If you want to get into a relationship, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the best days to find love says a new study by Facebook.

The large-scale study looks at how relationships -- as self-reported by Facebook users via status update changes on the social network -- are influenced by seasons, holidays and even the days of the week.

“Using U.S. Facebook data from 2010 and 2011, we looked at how different times of the year affect the beginning and ending of relationships,” said Jackson Gorham and Andrew T. Fiore, members of Facebook’s Data Team. “We started by tabulating the changes from a non-coupled relationship status, like "Single" or "Divorced," to a coupled status, like "In a relationship" or "Engaged." We compared that figure against the number of changes in the other direction, from coupled to non-coupled, to calculate the net percentage change. As an example, 4% more people entered into coupledom in December 2011 than left it, a net gain for romance.”

Facebook notes that there is a margin of error in its results as many people may choose to hide their relationship status from friends after a breakup rather than changing it.

On February 14 (Valentine’s Day) there were almost 50 percent more relationships created than breakups, said Facebook. Christmas was also a hot period for new relationships with 34 percent more relationships than breakups reported on December 25 and 28 percent more on December 24.

“Sometimes changes to relationship status are meant to be in good fun. The fifth biggest day for a net increase in relationships was April 1st, or April Fool's Day, which saw 20% more relationship initiations than splits. But unsurprisingly, many of these appear to be short-lived: April 2nd was the year's most extreme day in the other direction, with 11% more break-ups than new relationships,” said Facebook.

According to the study, people on Facebook were more likely to start a relationship after the weekend and more likely to break up with someone towards the end of the week.

Overall, the summer months of May through August were bad news for Facebook relationships in the US. Reported relationships were much lower during these months than the rest of the year.

Technology blog The Next Web said this study should make people think twice about what information they share with social networks like Facebook. “[T]he smallest piece of information in our Facebook profiles – a relationship status – can be used to establish entire patterns about user lifestyles,” cautioned The Next Web, “it’s an excellent reminder that with free services like Facebook, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

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