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What Do Your “Likes” Say About You?

These are the results of a study done by researchers at Cambridge University.  The study surveyed 58,466 individuals in the United States who volunteered access to what they have “liked” on Facebook.  Based on these results, the researchers came up with links between what people have “liked” and personal information like ethnicity, political party, sexual orientation, and alcohol and drug use.

A lot of these links are pretty obvious.  If you like Sarah Palin, you’re probably a Republican, and if you like Barbara Boxer, you’re probably a Democrat.  If you’re a guy, and you like Glee, you’re probably gay, and if you like the Bible, you’re probably Christian.

Some of the links are less obvious, but still make sense.  If you like scrapbooking or Huggies, you’re probably in a relationship, if you like Mozart, you’re probably pretty smart, and if you like Iron Maiden (the heavy metal band) you probably don’t have that many friends.

Some of the links make no sense at all.  If you like Halloween, you’re probably white, if you like Hunger Games, you’re probably single, and if you like Indiana Jones you’re probably pretty satisfied with your life.

I was really surprised I didn’t see anything about cats.  I’m pretty cute kitties are the most shared things on Facebook.

The researchers themselves admit that some of these connections are more tenuous than others, which you probably observed yourself.  I just thought it was an interesting study, taken with a grain of salt.

All the same, I’m relieved to see that liking pictures of cute animals and funny comics doesn’t inadvertently reveal my deepest, darkest secrets.

Description of the study:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/03/06/1218772110

Chart of the results:

http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2013/03/07/1218772110.DCSupplemental/st01.pdf 

P.S.  I’m sure now’s the time when people start talking about Internet safety, but I’m pretty sure a hacker isn’t going to go to the trouble of analyzing your collected likes.  They’re just going to look at your personal information, because they’ve already hacked into your account.

Anyone who is not your friend and has access to only some of your likes likely will not be able to make much use of the information.

All the same, don’t post your deepest, darkest secrets on the Internet and expect them to stay secret.  The best private setting on Facebook is: if it’s private, don’t put it on Facebook.  Or a blog, for that matter.

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