You may think that your relationship is pretty swell right now because you were totally understanding when she dragged you to that thing last week and all of your friends think your new profile picture is just adorable (you guys just look right together, you know?), but Facebook is hip to the insidious problems plaguing your romantic life and knows that your relationship is doomed.
Researchers from Cornell University examined the social connections of 1.3 million people, a process that helps the social network better tailor users' newsfeeds — but also, it turns out, that can be used to evaluate the inner workings of a romantic relationship. According to the New York Times, research shows that while mutual friends are important, "high dispersion" within a social network is a stronger indicator of a romantic connection. High dispersion means that couples are connected to friends from different parts of each other's lives. “A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person’s different social worlds,” explained a researcher to the Times. Researchers mapped out users' social networks, and found they were able to predict (pretty accurately) who was dating whom based on incidences of high dispersion. And, conversely, when people who were in a relationship lacked high dispersion, there was a good chance they would break up within the next two months.
The high dispersion analysis, essentially, suggests that if you're dating someone (or married, if that's your thing) and your partner's network of friends isn't well connected with your network of friends, then you're gonna have a bad time. So, like, when your idiot college friends come in for a weekend of debauchery and one of them ends up going home with your significant other's co-worker—presuming they become Facebook friends at some point while consumating the relationship—Facebook thinks your relationship is stronger for it.
Think of it like advanced baseball metrics, maybe. High dispersion is like Wins Above Replacement. Before now, no one thought to look at that figure when, really, it's the best indicators of how successful your relationship is going to be.
Also, this is the part when we're all supposed to panic because Facebook knows who we're dating even if we don't tell it and knows if/when we're going to break up. Skynet is real. Does John Connor have a Facebook? WHAT IF FACEBOOK ALREADY KNOWS ABOUT JOHN CONNOR?! [NYMag]