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Valentine’s Day: How Can Big Data Predict Your Breakup?

With Big Data, we can store and analyze health record data to predict the likelihood of going to a hospital or analyze our daily expenditures to identify better saving patterns or even analyze our calendar to adjust a better schedule and become more productive. Then, why can’t we predict the likelihood of having a successful relationship or break up using Big Data?

Big Data can be used, for example, to store and analyze our communication with our partner via instant messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or WeChat. The figure below shows an example of the frequency of texts between partners in a mobile messaging application. You can also show the most common words or phrases mentioned in their conversations. The “heart” figure in the bottom shows both positive and negative words discussed between a couple in conversations (The bigger the word, the more times it was mentioned during a conversation). Negative words like “Forgot” might mean forgetting a special occasion or something a partner would care for.

Would such text analytics be useful? Research findings show that distance plays a significant role in increasing text volume and usage compared to other communication mediums face-to-face. Analyzing texting among couples also predicts personalities based on the “attachment literature”. To illustrate, avoidant people are usually uncomfortable with emotional intimacy and don’t express their problems, support, or even ask for support from their partners. Thus, they use the less intimate communication channel—texting to maintain their close relationship. Anxiously attached individuals constantly fear that their partner will abandon them and they are more likely to use texting along with other communication methods to keep their partner close by. Besides, texting frequently does not mean a bad relationship, but relying on texting compared to other communication channels would negatively affect relationships

Several researches proved that in close relationships, direct behavior is not the primary factor of satisfaction. Communication skills is another main factor that reflects the perception of one another behavior. Thus, apprehension of behavior is equally important where secure partners are more likely to use adaptive emotional communication, whereas insecure partners show dysfunctional communication patterns. Big Data can be used here to detect patterns of communications  in order to show whether a relationship is destined to succeed or no.

To illustrate, an experiment was run by Gottman, a psychologist who built a mock apartment and analyzed couple’s behavior by hooking them to electrodes and placing surveillance cameras. Data were analyzed from couples’ heart rates and vascular tone while they flirted and fought. Also, professionals analyzed camera’s data for facial expressions.

They found that couples that stay happy used a lot of “we,” whereas couples that turned out unhappy used “I,” “me” and “mine.”  Thus, it’s the couple’s capacity to be patient, calm down, and express empathy is what reduced arousal and thus predicted the status of their marriage.

Big Data systems can be used to analyze physical data including sweating, heart rate, skin temperature, along with analyzing facial expressions through video analytics, and even text analytics through natural language processing, and then we can develop a guidance system that can predict the likelihood of having a successful relationship.

Besides, Big Data analytics can also be used to offer a real-time recommendations for partners. It will eventually store affinities and interests of one another discussed previously during communication in order to provide them with contextual recommendations accordingly. For example, a partner might mention a likelihood for cupcakes. This engine might give a real-time alert as her partner pass by a cupcake shop during a special occasion like Valentine. And who knows, in the near future, we might be wearing augmented reality glasses and seeing the personality traits of our crush in front of us, thus, giving us the ability to match the right partner.

On the other hand, scholars might critique the implications of such experiments on our emotional intimacy and others might fear the infringement on our privacy.

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