Facebook’s “People You May Know” section is something that most of us Facebook users pay little to no attention to. We think, “Oh it’s simple, Facebook can see who my friends are, put 2 and 2 together, suggest people that I have friends in common with, etc.” For those of us who give Facebook a lot of our personal information when we sign up, we think nothing of the fact that Facebook suggests we should be friends with people we go to school with or people we work with. However, Facebook’s friend suggestion algorithm is far more complex than most of could ever understand, and many of us see Facebook as a platform to create our own existing social network but fail to see Facebook for what it really is: a place that influences and creates our social networks for us.
The article, “How Facebook knows who all of your friends are, even better than you do” gives us insight into one of Facebook’s most underrated social network development tools. Before social media outlets such as Facebook, people’s social networks were as large as the amount of numbers in their rolodex. Now, we are able to become connected to people who would otherwise be out of lives no sooner than they left our sight. It is relatively painless to get someone’s name, look them up on Facebook, and harmlessly add them as a friend. With Facebook’s suggested friends section, sometimes all you need is to be in the same place at the same time, and Facebook will take care of the rest.
Companies on the forefront of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are no longer there to serve solely as a place to express one’s social network. They are now in the business of influencing the future and determining the development of social networks. As the article states, the kind of “link prediction” technology that Facebook uses has implications in areas such as epidemiology, communications, and counterterrorism.
Next time Facebook recommends that you should be friends with someone who even you forgot you knew, don’t be so surprised.