Social Network Analysis

I take a great deal of satisfaction in visualizing data, especially personal data. Sometimes a good visualization can immediately communicate more about a dataset than a dozen equations. To that end I recently got the data from my Facebook network and ran it through some analysis software (Gephi) just to see what I can see.

Without any further ado, here is my social network as of April 2013. Each of the points represents a person I’m friends with. I’m not on this graph because I’m friends with everybody (obviously!). Each of the links between two points represents that those two of my friends are also friends with one another. The colour of each point shows the person’s sex (red=female, blue=male, green=unspecified) and its size shows how many shared friends we have.


The points are positioned such that friendship links pull points together. Therefore, groups of people who know one another are clustered tightly on the graph. I am absolutely fascinated by the fact that I can see all the distinct phases of my life in this one picture:

  • The huge blob to the lower left: This could just be labeled ‘astronomers’, although it is dominated by people from my time at Leiden University
  • Just to the right, and heavily connected to Leiden is Durham, where I did my PhD. I think the density of people is somewhat lower here as Facebook was only really taking off towards the end of my PhD
  • The smaller group to the lower right is Nottingham University, where I was an undergraduate, and a couple of the links out of there into the large groups are friends who also became astronomers
  • The group to the top right is my high school, which is disconnected from my current life. The only link out of there is through my little sister.
  • The fragmented bit to the top-left is my new life in Chicago. It doesn’t look like a ball of links yet, but it is in the process of forming right now

Maybe my favorite thing about this whole graph, though, is the one red point linking all the disparate phases of my life. She’s sitting there towards the upper left, attached to everything. That person is my wife.

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