Facebook is irresistible.
Somehow, people just love to commit their latest and innermost happenings to the site. And somehow, those who analyze Facebook postings begin to see patterns in the callous behavior of the callow and cowardly.
David McCandless, a man who likes to make information look pretty in order for it to be understood, concocted a highly romantic picture of relationships on Facebook.
He presented it in August at the TED conference, but it has only now descended from that summit to attract the attention of the great unnoticed.
His methodology was to scrape Facebook for status updates that included phrases such as "break up" and "broken up." From this data, he discovered that there are certain times of year that people prefer to do a little dumping.
It seems that there are three periods that feature as the most popular time to tell you paramour that the light has gone out, the love has gone south, and the train is about to leave town: just after Valentine's Day, just before spring break and two weeks before Christmas.
I have read painful extrapolations of this data.
In his speech, McCandless offered that perhaps there was much emotional spring cleaning going on between Valentine's and spring break. CNN added that the idea of mass dumpings just before Christmas suggested a reluctance on the part of the dumper to dump more money on gifts in a floundering relationship.
Perhaps they are right. Perhaps human beings are awful, feelingless creatures who use significant times of the year to reassess their lives and eject lovers who, in one way or another, are simply not worth it.
But Facebook data are slippery. While McCandless' interesting chart offers peaks and troughs, it doesn't divide by sex. Might I offer some alternative analysis?
Might I suggest that, immediately after Valentine's, some women might be casting men from their sight, appalled that their lovers could think of nothing more romantic than roses from the supermarket and dinner at Outback Steakhouse?
Continuing with this obviously accurate analysis, perhaps it's men who do more of the dumping just before spring break, as for some--however unfairly--their main concern lies in how their girl will look on the beach.
When it comes to the third high-dumping period, well I fancy this one might be more equally balanced between the sexes.
Christmas means family. Which means judgment. When you take your lover home to meet your family, it is more difficult than presenting them with your exam results.
Because you know your parents well, you will immediately see in their eyes whether they think your lover is full of pulchritude and eligibility or whether they wish they'd booked two weeks at Hedonism II in Jamaica.
Many people, of both sexes, just can't take that risk. They would rather celebrate Christmas single than suffer the slings and arrows of outraged parents. So please be warned. In a few weeks, you might be getting the anti-mistletoe treatment: the pre-Christmas kiss-off. Now you know why.