Facebook Shares New Data on Relationship Status and Sentiment

Facebook has taken data from status updates to report post what our grandmothers have been saying all along: people who are in a relationship or marriage are seemingly happier than the rest of us.

Lisa Zhang, a University of Waterloo student interning on Facebook’s data team, posted the Valentine’s Day note in which she said happiness of Facebook users was measured by analyzing positive and negative words in status updates as defined by it Gross National Happiness Index during one week in January. This was done by computers with personally identifiable information removed, she noted, claiming it didn’t invade users’ privacy.

The hierarchy goes like this: married people are happiest, followed by people in a relationship, although married people tend to be older and, Zhang notes, older people tend to be happier. The corresponding gender breakdown: men are more positive then women when in a relationship or married, but more negative when married or engaged.

People in open relationships seem to be the most miserable, according to Zhang’s post, with men being the saddest in these pairings. Women reported being in open relationships 40% more than men, she wrote.

Those in open relationships had even less positive status updates than widows, than those with “it’s complicated” as their status, and than singles (who comprise 30% of women and 40% of men on Facebook). Widowed people showed less emotion, positive or negative, overall, she wrote.

Facebook users who do not disclose their relationship status are 50% more negative than everyone else, Zhang wrote.

It’s always insightful when Facebook releases analysis of user data, but it’s important to keep in mind that this information in and of itself is skewed. A Facebook status update can be seen by friends, family and the family of one’s spouse — people may be posting positive status updates to be seen by others even if they are not happy on the inside. Judging “happiness” in its absolute sense is something that is arguably outside of Facebook’s scope.

While there may be some correlation between offline/online and personal/private lives, Facebook has fast become another kink in the social fabric of our culture — one more way for people to express joy, save face, or make a mistake. What happens to a husband doesn’t post something positive about his wife leading up to Valentine’s Day? Probably nothing good.

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9 Responses to “Facebook Shares New Data on Relationship Status and Sentiment”

  1. Igor Ostrovsky says:

    The conclusion does not follow from the data at all! For example, those in relationships have more positive posts than those who say “it’s complicated”. But, they are even further ahead in the number of negative posts. So, it does not make sense to conclude that those in relationships are happier.

    Also, the data looks dodgy:

    * The Undisclosed bucket dominates the negativity, making everyone else seem positive. This makes very little sense, and goes unexplained.

    * In some buckets, “All” is not between “Male” and “Female”. Why? Even if there are users with unspecified genders, they shouldn’t affect the numbers *this* much.

  2. Facebook sentenzia: gli sposati sono più felici | ciaoblog says:

    [...] Secondo le ultime analisi, la sentenza è chiara: gli sposati sono più felici. [...]

  3. RebGrL says:

    In addition to the caveats already mentioned, the best one can say about the married and happiness correlation is that it applies only to those who are willing to describe themselves as married, who would most likely be those who are happier in their marriages to begin with. It shouldn’t be assumed that those who don’t disclose their relationship are single.

  4. Sam says:

    In conclusion, couples are making single people miserable. Do us a favor and keep your matrimonious-musings to yourself!

  5. Relationbook « Unbutton My Eyes! says:

    [...] Relationbook In Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm Here’s an example of every mistake you can make in new media studies: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2010/02/15/dr-facebook-is-in-people-in-relationships-are-happiest/ [...]

  6. The Biggest Stories: HuffPo Likes Me! Edition — Social Pollination says:

    [...] social media is proving to be an innovative way to conduct marketing research. Insider Facebook reports, “Lisa Zhang, a University of Waterloo student interning on [...]

  7. David Stillwell says:

    We at myPersonality published a similar analysis last Valentines Day (2009) using data from our application. Perhaps that is where Facebook got their idea?

    We actually measure how happy people are using a scale used in academic research. We found that those in “it’s complicated” relationships were the least happy, and those who are married are the most happy.

    http://mypersonality.org/research/2009/02/11/relationship-status-and-life-satisfaction/

  8. Danny Niu says:

    “men are more positive then women when in a relationship or married, but more negative when married or engaged.”

    What does this supposed to mean?

  9. The Biggest Stories: HuffPo Likes Me! Edition — Social Pollination - Development says:

    [...] social media is proving to be an innovative way to conduct marketing research. Insider Facebook reports, “Lisa Zhang, a University of Waterloo student interning on [...]

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