You Like What?!


 At some point or another, we’ve all pondered what we reveal about ourselves online. I’m sure that some have even consciously curbed some of our online comments just because, well, it would be a little uncomfortable if a girlfriend/mom/buddy/wife/sister/boss/etc. happened upon a poorly thought-out late-night post written in a moment of stupidity.

But guess what? It turns out you don’t even have to write a single word online for somebody to figure out not only the nuts and bolts of who you are, but the kinds of things you’re thinking right now. All it takes is a couple of likes.

According to a new study out of the University of Cambridge, it’s possible to predict from your Facebook “likes” your religion, political affiliations, sexual orientation, level of intelligence and even whether you drink beer or smoke pot on the weekends. The researchers matched up Facebook profiles with surveys and personality tests that they gathered from over 58,000 people. And with that they created a scientific model that they say can peg you better than your Mom can read a guilty look from 10 paces.

The model, for instance, pointed out that guys who “like” Kathy Griffin, Juicy Couture, or the musical Wicked have a high probability of being gay. Sports and Bruce Lee? Straight as an arrow. “Likes” for The Daily Show, Lord of the Rings, curly fries and a page called “Morgan Freeman’s Voice” are likely to indicate a high IQ. On the other hand, people who “like” Harley-Davidson, Lady Antebellum and a Facebook page called “I Love Being a Mom,” uh, not so much.

Now if you’re like me and into humming Wicked tunes while you eat curly fries, keep tabs on the football draft and wash your Harley, well, I guess that just means you’ve got issues, too. In any case, the researchers say that they’ve hit the 95% accuracy mark on a bunch of categories such as religion and sexuality and could even predict with at least 60% accuracy things like whether a person’s parents had divorced before the kids turned 21.

The gang at Cambridge even went so far as to set up a Web tool at that you can use on your own Facebook page and see how well their model works. The site does an instant test and then reports how open, agreeable, extroverted and conscientious you are.

It all seems pretty interesting. But, of course, it once again raises that whole privacy concern. And even the study’s co-author, David Stillwell said as much. “My biggest concern is that people do not realize what is possible, so they think that frivolous behaviors such as liking something cannot possibly say anything important about them,” Stillwell told CNN.

Fortunately, I can breathe a sigh of relief on this one. No one’s gonna analyze me through this program. Why? Because on Facebook, I don’t “like” anything, of course. Foiled you again, Internet!

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Julia Mitchell More than 1 year ago

Ironically at the bottom of this post is an icon that tells you to "Create your personal profile today!"  LOL

Margaret Ruehle More than 1 year ago

I don't make lists either and I'm terrible at planning. But the rest of it fit me quite well. I just wish they said which likes they used.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

AndStuff - I also got "organized" while having a terrible room-space... but then I looked at the pop-up clarifications. Apparently, "organized" does not mean "has a lovely sock-drawer," but "tends to plan for the future to minimize trouble," which is very much me. I DO make lists of what I'll need and go through checking them off when I'm packing, I like forewarning when somebody's birthday is up, I start meal-prep hours ahead of time when it's my turn to cook. So in a way, whatever my cleaning habits are, they got me right.

Margaret Ruehle More than 1 year ago

I decided to use it for fun. A lot of it was accurate, but one of the things  it claimed was that  I was organized, I wish it would've told me which like or likes it used to decide that. They obviously haven't seen the room I currently sleep in. LOL. One thing I wish they would've done, it said they used so many of my likes to determine their results, they mention four, but they used one hundred and something,  I wish it would've told all of the likes they used. That would've been cool.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I don't see how you would "have" to join a social networking site, but suit yourself. I know I have an online presence too, I just try to avoid joining sites that require my real name, and other personal info. Thing is, with social networking, you aren't the customer, you're the product. I prefer not to be a product. Who knows who gets that info down the road. Your "friends" aren't the only ones that see that stuff, unfortunately.

Elisa Poon More than 1 year ago

Just for fun, I tried the tool (and kept the results private to only me). It was actually pretty accurate in predicting my personality. I had a good laugh, as I have done many personality tests before, so it was fun to see how accurate this would be based on my likes.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I'm not at all disturbed, personally. I put it out there precisely because I knew people would see it. I'm well aware of my online presence, and what is or is not secret. Given how technology is progressing, I decided to just work with/manipulate it rather than attempt to avoid it (as I'd eventually have to fail).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I knew I had a good reason for staying off Facebook and G+ and whatever else is out there! I hope ya'll on Facebook are creeped out by what they know about you, 'cause I sure am.

side note: Oh, yay, I'm a genius! I love LOTR! :)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Given that I've hit the like button on Christianity, the Bible, and so on, I've the feeling they'd know my religion. That's kind of the point of me liking them. Other items... Anything here that's not direct and 100% I don't think is properly justifiable or accurate, but that's certainly not going to stop people from taking offense when they get the opposite of what they are in at least one category. And if they managed even 95% odds on everything, that's still a mere 20 categories before you're all but guaranteed a miss.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Duh! Of COURSE somebody can predict your personality/religion/etc., based on what you tell the world you "like." That's what the "like"ing function on social media is FOR. I have to guess (since I am a total abstainer when it comes to social media) that that is entirely why people click the little "like" button in the first place -- they WANT to tell everybody what they are like (personality-wise).

But I would also venture a guess that the vast majority never thought through the consequences of recording in permanent cyberspace such indications of their personality. Of COURSE someone, somewhere (i.e.,Google) is collecting that data, analyzing it, and will someday seek to profit by it.

(And yes, I recognize that by participating in this blog discussion I'm engaging in a mild form of social media, and I'm recording my "like/dislike" personality on this topic. Guess I'm not a ~total~ abstainer after all.  ;-)