Anatomy of a Life-Milestone Announcement on Facebook

July 15, 2010

(This article was first published on Zero Intelligence Agents » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

As I have mentioned, I recently returned for a lovely trip to Europe. While on vacation my brilliant, beautiful, funny, and all around perfect girlfriend accepted my invitation to be my wife.

Pause for shared overwhelming feeling of joy…

While I am still basking in the glow of being the luckiest man on Earth, as a true data geek I could not let this opportunity to analyze a novel data set escape me.

One of the most fascinating aspects of social media is how it has changed the way life-milestones, like getting engaged, are announced. Facebook’s ‘Relationship Status’ feature allows users to inform all of their friends at once about these large life changes. Such announcements are often met with a sudden deluge of comments and wall postings, so I thought: wouldn’t it be interesting to collect this data and analyze the frequency of decay of these postings?

Though I am not on Facebook, my fiancée is, and with a little help from Facebook’s API and R’s ggplot2 library I was able to collect and analyze this data. Below I present (with permission) the data on from my fiancée’s wall for the first 48 hours after she changed her Relationship Status from ‘In a Relationship’ to ‘Engaged’.

Interesting. A huge spike in the first hour, a drop and flattening over the next two hours, and finally another large drop with sporadic spikes. Women dominate the initial posts, while the gender difference vanish as posting frequency decreased more late-comers make posts.

Of course, all of this is secondary to that fact that—Kristen—I love you and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you!

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