Daniel Newman
April 9, 2015

Why Facebook Knows Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

I saw the movie Her not too long ago and it left an impression. The whole idea of Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his computer’s operating system, which turns out to be “someone” who understands him better than anyone else, makes me wonder if we are headed towards a similar future? While the movie sensationalizes the concept of technology meets humanity, that particular reality may not be too far away.

Last month, researchers from University of Cambridge and Stanford University published a study. It concluded that Facebook could predict our personality more accurately than most of our close family, friends, and maybe even our therapist. While not all of us have a therapist privy to all of our innermost thoughts, we do have close friends, confidants, and people we trust with the most personal information about us.

Obviously, these are the people that know more about us than anyone else on the planet. However, the idea that these people may not know us as well as the thousands of employees at Facebook is almost astounding. The good news is the actual people at Facebook probably don’t know us that well as their systems do. Deep inside their data they have the insights to know us better than we even know ourselves.

What Lies Behind Facebook’s Intelligence?

Data of course! There is speculation that FB can go so far as to predict relationship failures, and we have already seen it do a pretty good job of predicting what we might be interested in buying… Big Data is what makes these insights possible. And it is yet another example of how powerful the “Big Data” space can be. We can provide these intelligent machines with enough data and information that it can predict our likes and dislikes, our success and our failure. There is not much we can hide as we scroll through our newsfeed “liking” things as we go. There isn’t going to be much that we can keep secret or personal. The notion is both scary and powerful. It also serves as a tremendous indicator of what the future of data holds.

3185202042_059b9623d9_zUnderstanding People in the Future

With technology able to predict buying behaviour, relationship statuses, and now personality traits, data-driven intelligence is advancing. In the near future getting to know a complete stranger will be no more difficult than a few clicks of the keypad. Companies will be able to sell products that meet our specific needs; recruiters will be able to hire people based on their digitally-drawn personalities; we will even find a love match made in digital heaven. The accuracy of these prediction boils down to how much we are willing to share online. The more digital footprints we leave, the more personal data trails that we leave behind.

Privacy concerns are increasing as our habits are slowly being turning the pages of an open book. The speed of technology is outpacing the development of stronger privacy-protection laws. While all these data-driven innovations are exciting. There is definitely concern that unrestrained data-mining might take cyber-crime to a whole new level. Until we have better and more secure laws, the future, where artificial intelligence such as IBM’s Watson, Google’s search engine, and Facebook’s algorithms know us inside and out, may not be embraced with open arms.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how Big Data will influence our future.


Originally titled “Big Data: Why Facebook Knows Us Better Than Our Therapist


Image attribution: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_satori’ 123RF Stock Photo

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Daniel Newman's work is widely published. He is active in the social media community and the author of Amazon best-selling business book, “The Millennial CEO.” He also co-founded the global online Community 12 Most. He is the founder and CEO of Broadsuite Marketing Group and Principal Analyst at Futurum Research + Analysis. He is also co-founder of V3B [V3+Broadsuite]