It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good, “You had to do a study to figure that out!?”, so here’s one:
Using data from the social network Facebook, students at MIT made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction.
Wait for it…
Who we are can be revealed by, and even defined by, who our friends are: if all your friends are over 45, you’re probably not a teenager; if they all belong to a particular religion, it’s a decent bet that you do, too. The ability to connect with other people who have something in common is part of the power of social networks, but also a possible pitfall. If our friends reveal who we are, that challenges a conception of privacy built on the notion that there are things we tell, and things we don’t.
So, uh, gay people tend to have a lot of gay friends? Quick! Get those people a federal grant!