Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Relationship Similarity Quotient

Despite all my personal research being wholly qualitative, my geeky character has always quite liked quantitative data (but I don't usually shout about this).

In a recent conversation, I was talking about the way in which couples need a certain degree of difference for their relationship to be successful. One of my interlocutors was trying to suggest percentage differences: for example, there should be 40% similarity and 60% difference for a successful relationship.

As everyone knows, statistics can be used to prove anything, and this seemed to be one of those instances in which they are used in a meaningless manner. However, I was duly reminded of something I noticed several years ago when considering my wife's and my Facebook profiles.

I have 539 Facebook friends (and obviously, for 'friends', read 'acquaintances', I know much research has gone into the number of real friendships a person can maintain). My wife has 554 friends (ditto), but out of this fairly similar number only 191 are 'mutual friends'.

Realistically, I know that 'life-similarity' cannot be measured quantitatively, but I wondered what these Facebook statistics could show. I therefore propose a relationship similarity quotient (RSQ), calculated as follows (without mathematical symbols as I do not know how to include them in Blogger):

Average number of friends = ( My total friends + Partner's total friends ) / 2

( Total mutual friends / Average number of friends ) * 100 = RSQ

Or, in figures,

546.5 = ( 539 + 554 ) / 2

( 191 / 546.5 ) * 100 = 34.9

At the time of writing, my wife and I therefore have a RSQ of 34.9 (or a little over a third of our lives).

I know there is a big difference between what I am terming 'friends' and 'acquaintances', but this difference is also the heart of where our independent lives live and the difference is therefore relevant as a part of the RSQ.

I propose this out of genuine interest, although also in the spirit of more light-hearted mathematical amusement. I would be interested to know other people's RSQ (and it can, of course, be used to measure any relationship, not just with your significant other). If you are happy to comment with your RSQ and the relationship you have measured, it might be possible to discover a relatively fixed range of RSQs for different types of relationships.

This is obviously a very simplistic measure, and the ages of the people involved can have an impact on the result, along with the way they chose to use Facebook and therefore the way in which they add friends and acquaintances. However, as a starting point, it would be interesting to see how well it works, or to hear thoughts from those qualified to comment on statistics!