Two scientists, Lars Backstrom and Jon Kleinberg, working through 1.3 million couples from Facebook, established an idea in a 2013 paper. Their measure was based on counting the number of times a person and her spouse functioned as the bridge between disjointed parts of their network as a couple.
Backstrom and Kleinberg call the level to which a relationship fulfills this ideal its “dispersion” because it shows how utterly your social circle would fly to the winds if you and your spouse were somehow ripped from the center.
I prefer “assimilation” because I think that better captures the upshot: High assimilated people have a unique role as a couple within their mutual network. Highly assimilated couples function – the two people together – as the bond between otherwise unconnected cliques. They are the special glue in a given spread of dots, and furthermore, they’re a glue like epoxy: it takes both ingredients to make the thing hold together.
The power of assimilation comes from the fact that your spouse is one of the few people (if not the only person) you introduce into the far corners of your life. She is there at work parties, there at reunions, and there when your gamer friends come over for that all-day Magic: the Gathering blowout you look forward to all year. (Or she’s not there for that if she can help it, but you get the idea.)
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Meanwhile, these coworkers, these classmates, and these gamers, though all densely interconnected groups themselves, are unrelated to one another but for you and your spouse.
And here’s why it matters: For married people on Facebook, their spouse is the most assimilated member of their network an astounding 75 percent of the time. And, even more important for assimilation as a metric of relationship strength, the young couples for whom that’s not the case are 50 percent more likely to break up.
In a cliquey network without assimilation, “leading separate lives” can very quickly become “leading secret lives.”
Excerpted from Dataclysm by Christian Rudder. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Rudder. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
In the NYC area? Meet Christian Rudder at the Brooklyn Book Festival. He’ll be at the Brooklyn Historical Society on September 21, 2014 from 11:00am—12:00pm EDT.
Not to worry if you’re not in NYC. Christian Rudder will be on Facebook for a Live Q&A on Monday, September 22, 2014 from 5:00pm—6:00pm EDT.
Want to put your relationships to the test? This Dataclysm app will rank your friends by how central they are to your life.