“Friends” And Neighbors

by Dish Staff


Olga Khazan highlights new Facebook-based research on users’ personalities:

For the studies, [computer scientist Andrew] Schwartz and his co-authors asked people to download a Facebook app called “My Personality.” The app asks users to take a personality test and indicate their age and gender, and then it tracks their Facebook updates. So far, 75,000 people have participated in the experiment. Then, through a process called differential language analysis, they isolate the words that are most strongly correlated with a certain gender, age, trait, or place. The resulting word clouds reveal which words are most distinguishing of, say, a woman. Or a neurotic person. In the six studies they’ve published so far, they’ve found that, for example, introverts make heavy use of emoticons and words related to anime, but extroverts say “party,” “baby,” and “ya.”

Above is the word cloud for extroverts. Facebook introverts may want to consider Nextdoor, a neighborhood-centric social network that promises more offline interaction. Ben Popper explains:

The company’s success parallels a troubling trend. The rise of social networks means many people have hundreds or even thousands of digital connections to old friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. But increasingly that wealth of online companionship corresponds with a loss of close relationships to the real-life human beings in our neighborhoods. A third of Canadians and half of Americans admitted in studies that they don’t know the names of any neighbors. In the UK, one in three people couldn’t pick their neighbors out of a police lineup.

Two new books, Marc Dunkelman’s The Vanishing Neighbor and Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect, chronicle these trends and their impact on our bodies and our body politic. Dunkelman sees it at the root of America’s increasingly polarized politics and disaffected voters. For Pinker, a sociologist, the effects run deeper. She notes that the more overlapping relationships among friends, family, and neighbors, the better a person’s prognoses with the most life-threatening diseases and the lower the instances of debilitating illness like dementia. Getting to know your neighbors is statistically shown to produce a longer, healthier life.