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What can Facebook tell us about the battle of the sexes?

The ‘Mr and Mrs Average’ data reveals that men get into literature later in life, while women lose interest in their 20s.

Image: birgerking via Flickr

AN UNPRECEDENTED ANALYSIS of data posted by Facebook users has offered a unique insight to the differences between male and female users of the world’s most popular social network.

The data reveals that men and women typically start enjoying pursuits like literature and fitness at different times in their lives – often decades apart.

For example, while both genders become more interested in politics as they get older, the average man makes over twice as many references to political subjects by the time they reach the age of 40.

Both genders begin to lose interest in fashion after the age of 16, it found, while male interest in video games steadily declines after the age of 20 – while female interest, which is significantly lower, remains relatively steady.

In a subtle suggestion of a mid-life crisis, references to transport spike for men in the latter half of their 40s, while references to books are highest among women aged 22 – but male interest doesn’t peak until after the age of 50.

The data even reveals that while most Facebook users tend to befriend people of their own age, likely former schoolmates or work colleagues, those in their mid-50s have equally as many friends in their early 20s – suggesting they befriend their children, nieces, nephews and their friends.

The data was compiled by scientist Stephen Wolfram, better known as the architect of the Wolfram Alpha search engine, who compiled the data based on use of a personal analytics program which offers Facebook users a detailed profile of their life on the website.

Basing the calculations on data submitted by one million users, Wolfram wrote that it was “almost shocking how much this tells us about the evolution of people’s typical interests”.

“I’m struck by their similarity to plots for physical processes like chemical reactions,” he said.

“It’s as if all those humans, with all the complexities of their lives, still behave in aggregate a bit like molecules—with certain “reaction rates” to enter into relationships, marry, etc.”

Read: What a Facebook update would look like in real life

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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