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Facebook 'Likes' Can Be Used to Correctly Predict if You're Gay 88 Percent of the Time: Study


A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (or PNAS) reveals that sexual orientation can be predicted almost 90 percent of the time just by simply looking at what a user 'Likes' on Facebook.

Write the researchers:

We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental sepa- ration, age, and gender. The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychomet- ric tests. The proposed model uses dimensionality reduction for preprocessing the Likes data, which are then entered into logistic/ linear regression to predict individual psychodemographic profiles from Likes. The model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases. For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction accuracy is close to the test–retest accuracy of a standard personality test. We give examples of associations between attri- butes and Likes and discuss implications for online personalization and privacy.

They add:

Sexual orientation was easier to distinguish among males (88%) than females (75%), which may suggest a wider behavioral divide (as observed from online behavior) between hetero- and homosexual males.

Read the full study HERE.

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  1. "Sexual orientation was easier to distinguish among males (88%) than females (75%), which may suggest a wider behavioral divide (as observed from online behavior) between hetero- and homosexual males."

    Science, telling us what we already know: that straight men (and indeed a lot of gay men) are terrified of being perceived as gay.

    Posted by: BABH | Mar 12, 2013 10:04:07 AM

  2. Babh, that has to be one of the least intelligent things I've ever read. Get over your persecution complex--what you said makes absolutely no sense.

    Posted by: me | Mar 12, 2013 10:11:00 AM

  3. This isn't news. The way to determine if someone is gay or straight is to watch whom they look at. This is just an updated way of doing that.

    Posted by: chasmader | Mar 12, 2013 10:30:16 AM

  4. So because I "like" Seth Fornea and Zach Walls, someone can figure out that I'm gay?

    How brilliant.

    Posted by: ripper | Mar 12, 2013 10:43:47 AM

  5. Hmm, another fine example of wasted money on a study where the conclusion is a resounding: No $hit!

    Posted by: Wasted Money | Mar 12, 2013 10:58:58 AM

  6. @ME - I'll use small words, to help you understand: straight men try not to behave in a way that could make them seem "gay." Therefore, it is not surprising that gay men and straight men have very different "likes" on Facebook.

    In other words, there is a wider difference between gay/straight male behavior than there is between lesbian/straight female behavior, and the reason for that is straight male homophobia.

    Posted by: BABH | Mar 12, 2013 11:21:32 AM

  7. Now please explain what led you to think I have a "persecution complex" because, in Muphry's Law [sic] style, your comment made absolutely no sense.

    Posted by: BABH | Mar 12, 2013 11:23:34 AM

  8. Why do people, whom in most other cases make intelligent choices, choose to put so much information about themselves online, especially social networking sites? People who collect such data for semi-legitimate and nefarious reasons used to have to scramble to get it, now it's handed to them on a platter.

    There is no real privacy on the internet, something which I think many people block out because it makes them uncomfortable to contemplate. And the consequences of this are still in the beginning stages of being felt, but will have very profound effect for all of us, really revolutionary in scope, and in many respects negative in nature.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Mar 12, 2013 11:24:24 AM

  9. I always found it easier to look over their friends list.

    Posted by: Continuum | Mar 12, 2013 11:26:18 AM

  10. "So because I "like" Seth Fornea and Zach Walls, someone can figure out that I'm gay?"

    No, it's probably more like if you are a male and you "like" Lady Gaga or Madonna or Cher, you are almost certainly gay......whereas if you are a male and you "like" Bruce Springsteen or Metallica, you are almost certainly straight.

    If you are a male and you "like" something sports-related, it is highly likely you are straight.....if you are a male and you "like" anything fashion-related, it is highly likely you are gay.

    And on and on and on.

    Sadly, this is proof positive the the culture of effeminacy is very real and is the prevailing mindset among gay men, and if this situation persists, it is going to be very, very difficult for gay men to ever be fully accepted in society--as opposed to being tolerated, which is not the same thing.

    If these "likes" really were a consequence of sexual orientation, per se, that would be one thing.....but they are not, of course. There is nothing about the sexual orientation of gay men that should cause them to relate more to women and women's interests than straight men should and no reason why they should relate less to men and men's interests than straight men should. It is all learned behavior and totally unnatural.....and if we don't find a way to unlearn it (for our own sake, mainly, but also because of the consequences it will have for us in society), then we are doomed to be outcasts forever.

    Very depressing news, but not at all surprising.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 12, 2013 11:31:23 AM

  11. "I'll use small words, to help you understand: straight men try not to behave in a way that could make them seem "gay."

    No, straight men for the most part behave in a masculine manner that comes naturally to males of all species and is driven by biology, not culture. Gay men for the most part, having internalized the societal notion that their sexuality makes them less than true men, alter their behavior accordingly and model their behavior on women rather than men and the result is the artificial, effeminate behavior that constitutes "gay" culture.

    To be sure, straight male behavior is not ENTIRELY natural in that they erect artificial emotional barriers with other men and allow themselves emotional freedom only with women, when the natural tendency would be towards intimacy with other men, instead......so to that extent, yes, their behavior is driven by homophobia

    So neither straight nor gay men truly behave in a natural manner, which is why the entire male culture needs an overhaul.

    The results of this study seem to suggest, though, that despite some outward signs of progress in that regard, we are very far away from reaching that happy medium.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 12, 2013 11:38:52 AM

  12. You can tell that I'm masculine because I run away like a sissy child whenever I'm asked to give any form of proof that I'm as masculine as I want everyone to think that I am.

    In truth, I'm not terribly masculine. But I am terribly ugly, and what a lot of people don't realize is that a gay stereotype is that "gay men are attractive". And I'm not. So, people can't tell that I'm gay, but it's pretty much because I'm so ugly I couldn't get f***ed if I fell @ss-first onto a cock factory.

    I am Rick, and I'm a cowardly and worthless excuse for a man.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 12, 2013 11:43:26 AM

  13. Know what else facebook can be used for? Being openly gay, and Coming Out.

    That's one of those funny things. A study on "how to tell if someone's gay" is more and more ridiculous considering so many of us make no bones about our gayness. Hi, i'm gay.

    There's a world of us that don't hide. Hi, we're gay, and we use facebook. And walk around in the real world. And date. And life's pretty swell.

    And BABH - you make some very-accurate points. I went to an art school as a kid - it was amazing to see, as we got older, some of the incredibly talented male dance students drop dance all together. Why? because "dance means gay" - talent and potential ignored and avoided, so as to not be associated with something "gay"

    Hey Rick, you sack of dung - is this the day you prove your manliness by linking us all to the URL where you show us all your manly macho man example? No? It's not? You're gonna keep on rambling like a cowardly anonymous ninny?

    of course. thanks for proving me, and everyone else right.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 12, 2013 11:51:35 AM

  14. "No, it's probably more like if you are a male and you "like" Lady Gaga or Madonna or Cher, you are almost certainly gay"

    Once again, your sad little attempts at bashing gay men ring absolutely false.

    As a matter of fact, I don't like any of those artists. My Music "likes" on Facebook consist of VNV Nation, Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Haujobb, Neuroticfish, and about 200 other industrial/EBM acts.

    Furthermore, it turns out I also "like" dozens of sports pages on Facebook including FC Barcelona, Chelsea FC, Leo Messi, Frank Lampard, Landon Donovan, and several others. I also like numerous mountain bike pages that I use to discuss trail conditions with other bikers.

    Do you ever tire of being wrong?

    I wonder what connections the study uses to determine that you're a sexist, homophobic a-hole.

    Posted by: ripper | Mar 12, 2013 11:56:23 AM

  15. I guess my facebook page would make their computer (and Rick) blow a gasket.

    I like fashion and interiors but I also like Nascar and pro football. I drink beer but occasionally I like wine. I like camping out in rugged terrain and not shaving or bathing for a week at a time, but I also like being campy and bathing every day. I like art museums but I also like Monster Truck shows. I like going to wings/sports bars but I also like cooking gourmet food and staying home. I like playing sports but also like simply reading.

    Life is for living and I love ALL of it.

    This is the style of the gay man circa 2013, get over it Facebook.

    Posted by: johnny | Mar 12, 2013 12:01:06 PM

  16. RICK and BABH: You each might be right, but this study doesn't give the necessary evidence. From the study: "Good predictors of male homosexuality included “No H8 Campaign,” “Mac Cosmetics,” and “Wicked The Musical,” whereas strong predictors of male heterosexuality included “Wu-Tang Clan,” “Shaq,” and “Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps.” Although some of the Likes clearly relate to their predicted attribute, as in the case of No H8 Campaign and homosexuality, other pairs are more elusive.... Moreover, note that few users were associated with Likes explicitly revealing their attributes. For example, less than 5% of users labeled as gay were connected with explicitly gay groups, such as No H8 Campaign, “Being Gay,” “Gay Marriage,” “I love Being Gay"..."

    This seems obvious to us and part of classic stereotypes, but by itself it is neither proof of a wider "culture of effeminacy" nor of "straight male homophobia." A huge problem with the study is that it uses "Interested in" to code for homosexuality (or heterosexuality). This was less than 1000 gays and 900 lesbians, and the field was simply blank for many of the respondents (and the survey respondents comprise a biased sample too). All of these people are obviously more comfortable with creating and sharing a public persona, and it seems hard to generalize to all gay men. More importantly, Facebook itself actively pushes recommended likes to users. I know that as soon as I said I was interested in men, I was flooded with likes for musicals, fashion, etc. Plus, the SVD procedure meant that only the top 30 components were used, thus severely masking the complexity of the matrix underlying the individual users.

    Posted by: Thomas | Mar 12, 2013 12:04:42 PM

  17. I was skeptical upon reading the headline, wondering how did the researchers even confirm in the end who belonged in what "actual" category to prove their predictions right or wrong. I'm even more incredulous after reading their methods.

    First, they say they predicted sexual orientation based on Facebook "likes" such as "Britney Spears" and "Desperate Housewives."

    Then, this is how they confirmed whether they were right:

    " Sexual orientation was assigned using the Facebook profile “Interested in” field; users interested only in others of the same sex were labeled as homosexual (4.3% males; 2.4% females), whereas those interested in users of the opposite gender were labeled as heterosexual."

    But the "interested in" field is NOT necessarily an indication of someone's sexual orientation. I've seen married straight men check "men" or "women and men." I am sure that some of them interpret that to mean in terms of "friending" people -- NOT for sexual or romantic hook-ups.

    In fact, I would find it a little odd for a straight married man to put up a profile seeking out "women" and I could understand why he would at least be "interested in" Facebook friends of both sexes, if not just (in the case of a jealos wife or conservative man) friends solely of his own sex.
    I recall showing how Facebook works to a straight married woman and saying "There's your old high school boyfriend. You would click here if you wanted to "friend" him."
    She said, "Well, of course I don't, but maybe I can look up some of my old girl friends."

    Plus, my straight brother watched Desperate Housewives and I didn't. And my profile doesn't say I'm "interested in men" (I already have a man; I'm not "interested in" using Facebook to find men any more than women.)

    The study is severely flawed by confirming its conclusions with assumptions instead of facts.

    Posted by: GregV | Mar 12, 2013 12:05:01 PM

  18. um, any other gays currently OBSESSED with the latest David Bowie?

    pretty much every single 'mo on my facebook friends list is talking about it 24/7.

    and justifiably. it's uh-MAAAAZE-ing.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 12, 2013 12:08:08 PM

  19. I guess one of the questions I have when someone asks "why do gay guys like ___________?" is usually, "Why doesn't everyone else like _______?"

    Are we to apologize for being paragons of taste and culture? i certainly won't.

    viva la camp aesthetique!

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 12, 2013 12:10:24 PM

  20. @RIPPER I didn't do the study....so directing your anger at me is inappropriate, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead.

    That does not mean that there are not exceptions--the correlation, was not, after all, 100%....and I am sure that if I had a lot of "likes" on my own Facebook page, I would probably incorrectly be pegged as straight. Perhaps you would have been, as well. If so, good for you--

    But clearly they found huge differences between gay men and straight men as groups and those can only be accounted for by the explanation I offered.

    If you have an alternative explanation that makes any sense, by all means share it with us, instead of resorting to a woman-like emotional outburst. I would certainly love to believe that there is an alternative explanation, because, as I said in my first comment, I find the findings of the study to be terribly depressing.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 12, 2013 12:11:37 PM

  21. Oh, and in my first post, where I wrote "(and indeed a lot of gay men)," I was talking about people like Rick, with their internalized homophobia.

    There's nothing "natural" about what society happens to think is "manly" or "effeminate." In some cultures*, it's super butch for straight male friends to hold hands. In some cultures, pink ("vibrant and forceful") is the right color for baby boys, and blue ("the more delicate color") is for girls. In some cultures, a high tenor voice is macho and a bass voice is just base.

    So you don't like sissies, Rick. Good for you. Have fun with your own oddly fetishized ideas of masculinity. But don't go around badmouthing my fabulous, fey, lisping sisters or - manly man that I am - I will call you out as the bully and bigot that you are.

    *(our own Anglo-American culture, just 100 years ago, in fact)

    Posted by: BABH | Mar 12, 2013 12:17:15 PM

  22. Rick, "resorting to a woman-like outburst"? Really?

    Posted by: db | Mar 12, 2013 12:21:49 PM

  23. I'm surprising it's not even more. I mean, is a straight guy going to like Andrew Christian underwear? Probably not. Is a straight guy going to like various gay porn stars? Hell no.

    Posted by: db | Mar 12, 2013 12:22:56 PM

  24. BABH - well met. j'adore you.


    this is for you. well, it's for the RICKs of the world, too, but lord knows they're terrified of being confronted with their hidden truths....

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 12, 2013 12:30:42 PM

  25. I think OUT is different from GAY. People don't like NoH8 pages on Facebook if they are gay and don't want people to know. Also not every gay dude likes that stuff listed. I like WuTang Clan and Shaq which purportedly make me straight. Marlarkey!!!

    Posted by: Kissyfur | Mar 12, 2013 12:45:46 PM

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