Thinking About Facebook: Big Data

Facebook allows us access to all the data we have ever created on their website. I have lived half of my life on Facebook. For my generation, known as the millennials, social media offers the largest collection of photo’s, conversations and events that we own. Whilst diaries used to be treasured objects of the private sphere, Facebook has created a public diary where we continually mould ourselves through our photo collections and ever-growing connections.

Downloading my Facebook data was like unearthing hidden gold. Whilst my photos remained public, I thought my Facebook messages had been lost. Instead, in a mixture of excitement and shock, I found out that I had access to every message I’d ever sent on Facebook. I got my Facebook in 2008. From 2012 to 2017 there are over 1482 pages of messages, thus creating the most comprehensive record of my development as a human being.

In total my best friend and I have shared 16,000 messages together. My second best friend has reached 11,000 messages, and my girlfriend is currently on 8,200 which is impressive considering I have known the two former my whole Facebook career.

We have shared 179 “hello’s”, 191 “hey man’s” 61 “how are you’s” and 29 “good thanks”.

There have been many moments of laughter with 11,147 “haha’s”, 525 “jokes” and 17 “pranks”. In a particularly British way this laughter has been coupled with outright negativity, with 35,910 “no’s” contrasted to just 1840 “yes’s”, however, this negativity must also be weighed against the memorable instance that someone wrote “looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool”. In simpler English that’s lol with 112 zero’s.

Football and music have been the main sources of entertainment. The word “football” has been mentioned 461 times with particular mention to “Chelsea” (250), “Fulham” (126), and “Man United” (47). “Music” has been mentioned 489 times. On this subject there have been 402 “tunes”, 607 “songs”, 129 “guitars”, 67 “Hip Hop’s” and 250 “festivals”. The makers of these “tunes” are hugely varied. On the subject of Grime “Skepta” won with 29 mentions, whilst both “Kano” and “Wiley” were tied with 16.

Even amongst someone with a keen interest in politics, social media has not precipitated political discussion. There have been just 29 “labour’s”, 10 “conservatives”, 14 “politicians” 6 “David Cameron’s” and 13 “Obama’s”.

On the subject of the internet, YouTube is the social media’s champion, with 1922 “youtube’s”, possibly a result of the words correlation with Youtube links. “Facebook” also provides a good showing being mentioned some 1237 times, once again a reflection of things being linked with the URL “”, by contrast, “Twitter” has played a small part in my network being mentioned just 47 times.

Encouragingly Love has also played a prominent part in my Facebook career. My friends have had 1866 “love’s” (they wish…) and 64 “love you’s”, however, it appears I am from a clan who prioritise the head over the heart, with 444 “minds” and just 86 “hearts”.

Insults have never been far away, with an amazing 2,854 “Fucks”, nevertheless, I was proud and rather surprised to find that the word “love” had been mentioned over a thousand times more than “dickhead” (27) and “mug” (152) combined.

For now, these language datasets will continue to grow. The Facebook ecosystem remains lively and I foresee I will still be on Facebook for the next decade. I cannot envisage a future when the subjects of music and football cease to be the main topics of entertainment, and, I still cannot imagine  Facebook becoming an Athenian forum housing expansive discussions on “Labour” and “David Cameron”.

10 Oct 17

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