Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WotW: What Do You Do On Facebook?

What do you do on Facebook? Sounds like a dumb question, right? You probably post status updates, follow what's going on in the lives of your friends and do a bunch of liking and commenting. But what do you really do? Do you know how many posts you've done? Who's your biggest fan? Which countries are your friends from? How long is your average post and what words do you use the most?

You could lock yourself in a room for a month with a spreadsheet and crunch the numbers, or you can harness the power of WolframAlpha and let it do the work for you.

We've talked about WolframAlpha on this blog before, and it's amazing. Recently, they've added a feature that allows you to analyze your Facebook data and habits. And it's free.

To get started, go to, and type the search terms, "facebook report," in the search field and press enter on your keyboard.

You will be taken to an authorization page which will verify that you want WolframAlpha to analyze your Facebook data. Once you press the Analyze My Facebook Data button, you will have to sign up for a free WolframAlpha account and authorize their app on Facebook, just like you would with any other Facebook app.
 If you're like me, you might be hesitant to give up control of your Facebook account to an outside organization. Fortunately, WolframAlpha only holds on to your data for one hour, enough time to give you results, but not enough to spy on every intimate move you make.

Depending on how fast your Internet connection is and how much data you have on Facebook, it may take a few minutes for WolframAlpha to process your data. Once it does, you will be given a comprehensive report.

If you look below, you can see my posting frequency over the past year and a half. The colored bars represent the different types of posts. From this data, I can tell that in the past year I've made a bigger effort to post links and/or images, although plain status updates are still my bread and butter.

Another cool feature is the posting time distribution chart. This tells you what day(s) and time(s) you post the most. From the chart above, it seems I am a big Saturday poster (no surprise there since it's my day off work). I also post a lot on Tuesdays. I don't have a good explanation for that one.

WolframAlpha also calculates all your posts, likes and comments. One thing that stood out to me from these results was the average post length: 28.52 words. Compared to most Facebook users, that's a lot, and it would never cut it on Twitter, though I definitely condense my thoughts on Twitter.

One of my favorite features is the word frequency section. Ever wonder what you talk about the most on Facebook? From these words, I can piece together that I've talked a lot about school (what a shocker for a former school teacher), technology reviews (hence the words new, great, good) and time. So apparently I need to mix things up a bit. You can even select the Show Word Cloud button and see all your words in a much more visual format. Speaking of this, above nearly every chart is a button that allows you to drill down to more data.

I can also see the gender breakdown of my friends, as well as their relationship statuses. Most of my friends tend to be married.

The map feature quickly pinpoints how far your social network reach really is.

One of the weirdest features, but most amazing, is their Friend Network chart, which shows how you and all your friends are connected. Dots that are grouped close together show commonalities (perhaps your coworkers or college). If you hover over a dot, you can even see which friend that dot represents.

The charts I've shared are only a few of the many available when you let WolframAlpha analyze your Facebook data.

So why would you want to do this? Besides pure curiosity, it can be helpful to spot trends. Maybe you see that you only post status updates. Perhaps you see that your most commonly used words are kind of negative and you want to fix that. And maybe you just want to spend a good 15 minutes of self absorption analyzing all your data like some computer nerd. Go on, I won't judge you.
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