Infographic: The United States of Facebook

A former Apple engineer used information from Facebook's massive user database to discover the "real" borders of the United States of America.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

The political and geographic borders of the United States are crystal clear, but what can we learn from the invisible social boundaries created by the relationships of its citizens?

Former Apple engineer Pete Warden discovered more than he bargained for when he took a bird's-eye-view of user data from the world's largest online community, Facebook, and discovered what the real United States looks like.

According to a ReadWriteWeb article, Warden on Wednesday will make friend, fan page and name data from the hundreds of millions of Facebook users available to the academic research community for the first time.

With Facebook already considered a valuable targeted marketing resource both due to its breadth and its use of real identifiers for users, it's clear that the social network's massive amounts of data can also be leveraged to better understand human interaction.

For example, Warden has learned that:

  • Despite just 162 miles between them, Columbus, Ohio and Charleston, West Virginia associate differently with their surrounding region: "[They] share few connections, with Columbus clearly part of the North, and Charleston tied to the South."
  • The Northeast and Midwest, or "Stayathomia" as Warden dubbed the area: "This belt's defining feature is how near most people are to their friends, implying they don't move far."
  • The South: Atlanta is the hub, connecting everything except southern Florida, which connects to the East Coast. "God is almost always in the top spot on the fan pages, and for some reason Ashley shows up as a popular name here, but almost nowhere else in the country."
  • Greater Texas: "The ties of the Gulf Coast towns and Oklahoma and Arkansas make them look more Texan than Southern."
  • A streak Warden calls "Mormonia" in Utah and Eastern Idaho: "It's worth separating from the rest of the West because of how interwoven the communities are, and how relatively unlikely they are to have friends outside the region."
  • The "Nomadic West": "The defining feature of this area is how likely even small towns are to be strongly connected to distant cities."
  • The Southwest Coast, or cheekily, "Socialistan": "Californians outside the super-cities tend to be most connected to other Californians, making almost as tight a cluster as Greater Texas."
  • And "Pacifica," or the Pacific Northwest: "The area around Seattle is disappointingly average."

Fascinating stuff that leverages the power of all of that voluntarily submitted data. For the full interactive map experience -- you can drill down to city and state info -- see the project at Fan Page Analytics.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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