A 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) project has found that you can reliably determine whether a guy on Facebook is gay. The project was dubbed “Gaydar” and it is essentially an analytic application of the adage “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” You can read all about it from this recent Boston Globe article, an excerpt of which is found below:
Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction. The two students had no way of checking all of their predictions, but based on their own knowledge outside the Facebook world, their computer program appeared quite accurate for men, they said. People may be effectively “outing” themselves just by the virtual company they keep.
Now before you go “unfriending” all of your gay friends on Facebook, Friendster, Multiply, and other social networks, take note that this project only looked at a small sample of MIT students on Facebook and that they verified their hypothesis with only a small fraction of that. Their study might not be applicable to us because of our different social culture and norms.
That said, I think there’s some truth to their findings. I was able to guess that a college acquaintance of mine is gay (let’s call him X) when I noticed that X started hanging out a lot with this other guy (whom I’ll refer to as Y) based on posts on Y’s blog. I suspected that Y is gay, though I have no definite proof. My only evidence for Y is that he commented on MGG several times, which is pretty incriminating, right? I confirmed my suspicion when I ran into X and asked him about it. Turns out he and Y became boyfriends. Well, I confided to X that I was PLU too.
You can actually infer quite a lot based on one’s circle of friends. So if you’re the ultra-discreet PLU, I suggest covering all of your tracks, especially online (use proxies!), if you value your closet.