Friday, March 07, 2008

Facebook: A comparison of two universities

As a recent graduate of a large public university in Virginia (Old Dominion University) and now a professor at a small private university in Arkansas (Harding University), I though it would be interesting to compare the demographics of these two institutions based on Facebook network membership. Facebook provides statistical data for various categories like favorite movies, interests, political views, etc. making such a comparison easy to do.

A few caveats: faculty, staff, students, and some alumni are all grouped together (the only criteria for joining the university's network is that you have a university address). Also, it's difficult to say how many members of each group make up the network population; my guess is students make up around 90% of the population since they are more likely than other demographics to be interested in Facebook.

On the left: ODU, a racially diverse state university of about 20,000 students located in the populous Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. The school has many graduate programs and non-traditional students. On the right: Harding, a private Christian university of approximately 6,000 students located in the small town of Searcy, Arkansas. A majority of students are enrolled straight out of high school, and there are only a handful of graduate programs.

I have bolded values that do not appear in the other school's list. Some commentary appears under each category.

Old Dominion University

Harding University

Total Members
Since ODU is almost four times as large as Harding, it appears that a higher percentage of Harding students (and faculty and staff) are Facebook members.

48% Female
38% Male
14% None Listed
47% Female
41% Male
12% None Listed
Not surprising, females outnumber males significantly on both campuses. However, gender confusion reigns on both campuses.

Relationship Status
34% Single
27% In a Relationship
26% None Listed
6% Married
4% Engaged
2% It's Complicated
1% In an Open Relationship
31% Single
25% None Listed
19% In a Relationship
18% Married
7% Engaged
1% It's Complicated
Although three times as many Harding students are married, ODU and Harding have almost the same percentage of singles. Open Relationship = She'll date me as long as I don't care that she's dating others

Political Views
54% None Listed
13% Moderate
11% Liberal
10% Conservative
6% Other
3% Very Liberal
1% Libertarian
1% Apathetic
1% Very Conservative
46% None Listed
28% Conservative
13% Moderate
5% Other
3% Liberal
2% Apathetic
2% Very Conservative
1% Libertarian
Liberals have a slight edge at ODU, but there are nine times as many conservative Harding students and less that 1% that considers themselves to be "very liberal."

Top Interests
1 Music
2 Sports
3 Shopping
4 Reading
5 Movies
6 Video Games
7 Dancing
8 Writing
9 Working Out
10 Girls
1 Music
2 Movies
3 Football
4 Sports
5 Hanging Out With Friends
6 God
7 Working Out
8 Reading
9 Family
10 My Friends
Music appears to be a favorite interest, no matter which school you attend. Video games is conspicuously missing from Harding's list... judging by the amount of time my students spend playing video games, I would say it easily ranks in the top 5. It's good to see God ranks up there for Harding students; He seems to be absent from ODU's list.

Top Music
1 R&b
2 Rap
3 Green Day
4 Journey
5 Jay-z
6 Hip Hop
7 Country
8 Tim Mcgraw
9 Jack Johnson
10 Incubus
1 Jack Johnson
2 Country
3 John Mayer
4 Brand New
5 Taking Back Sunday
6 Rock
7 Dashboard Confessional
8 Relient K
9 Rap
10 Damien Rice
Poor taste in music also seems to be universal. wink Country may rank higher at Harding because it attracts many rural students.

Top Books
1 Anything By Nicholas Sparks
2 Harry Potter
3 The Notebook
4 The Chronicles Of Narnia
5 Coldest Winter Ever
6 Bible
7 Da Vinci Code
8 Ayn Rand
9 Anything By Steven King
1 The Bible
2 Harry Potter
3 Blue Like Jazz
4 1984
5 The Chronicles Of Narnia
6 Pride And Prejudice
7 Lord Of The Rings
8 Holes
9 Magazines
Nick is one popular guy at ODU considering one of his books ranks #3 as well. Do Harding students understand the difference between books and magazines?

Top Movies
1 The Notebook
2 Wedding Crashers
3 Boondock Saints
4 Blow
5 Finding Nemo
6 Dirty Dancing
7 Crash
8 Requiem For A Dream
9 Remember The Titans
10 Hitch
1 The Notebook
2 Remember The Titans
3 Lord Of The Rings
4 Shrek
5 Anchorman
6 Braveheart
7 A Walk To Remember
8 Red Eye
9 Gladiator
10 Friday Night Lights
This list has the fewest shared members of all the top 10 lists; however, students at both schools agree that The Notebook is #1. (Well, it may not be everyone's favorite movie, but it appears on more top lists than any other movie, most likely because of the large female population.) How does Blow, a movie about selling cocaine, make it on the ODU list and not Braveheart?

Top TV
1 House
2 Family Guy
3 Grey's Anatomy
4 Scrubs
5 Friends
7 The Hills
8 Nip/Tuck
9 Heroes
10 Gilmore Girls
1 Grey's Anatomy
2 Family Guy
3 House
4 24
5 Friends
6 The Office
8 Lost
9 Gilmore Girls
10 American Idol
Students at both universities share remarkably similar interests in TV shows. Only a few differences: the ODU crowd likes to watch dysfunctional rich people (Hills, Nup/Tuck) whereas Harding students prefer more adventure (Lost) and pseudo-reality shows that should have been canceled seasons ago (Idol). wink

Although ODU and Harding are in many ways very different from each other (location, size, political and religious views), this simple comparison shows the two groups have a lot in common when comparing cultural likes. Nuff said.

Update on 1/7/2009

Apparently Facebook has disabled the Network summary pages that I used to do this comparison. The URLs I used to view the summary statistics for Harding and ODU now redirect to a search page for the networks.