Will You Take This Lollipop?- Exploring the Implications of Big Data in the Social Media World

by: Annett Thom

The first thing I noticed about Mrs. Golbeck was her sense of fashion.  The session hadn’t even started yet, but her stylish yellow, white, and black dress was not just noticed by me.  Had the dress its own Facebook page, it probably would have had instant Likes.

The title Why Social Media “Likes” Say More Than  You Might Think had in and of itself already peaked my interest; but when she opened her speech with a mindboggling connection between high intelligence and curly fries, she had my undivided attention.

Her research showed that if a person liked the Facebook pages for curly fries, thunderstorms, The Colbert Report, and/or science they are likely to have high IQs, while people liking the site for “I love being a mom” seem to be less fortunate in that department.

Where does such a connection come from you might ask.  The first person stumbling upon the site for curly fries might have been a highly intelligent individual.  Usually we surround ourselves with likeminded people, so this person’s friends are likely to be highly intelligent as well. Seeing that their friend just liked curly fries, they might think to themselves “Hey, I like curly fries, too!”.  And so the amount of intelligent people liking curly fries grows. I mean after all, who doesn’t like curly fries?

Jennifer followed this with an even more interesting connection of human behavior.  Did you know that buying vitamins, brightly colored rugs and large purses at Target might be a sign of early pregnancy and will get you special offers for baby products?

While Target collected and analyzed buying patterns to come to such conclusions, weird as they might be, we can do the same with the help of Social Media.  All the information is out there, and most of it readily available.  Connections have been established between what a person might do or like and what disease they might be prone to (such as diabetes, depression, or obesity).  While privacy invasion is and will continue to be an issue, most information is not quite as protected as you might think. Even if your privacy settings on Facebook are as tight as can be, apps will find a way around it.  Take a look for yourself at Take This Lollipop.

Now the question is, “Will you take this Lollipop?”