Visualizing Activity on Facebook

By Justin Moore on Monday, June 4, 2012 at 9:59am

In 2010, Paul Butler produced a striking image of the world by visualizing friendships.  At the Where 2.0 conference earlier this year, we presented some visualizations that describe how people use location in their Facebook posts.  

Liking places, checking in and tagging photos with a location are just a few examples of how people use location to interact and communicate with friends. The images below attempt to visually analyze how people are using location with Facebook and present some unique slices of data.

These posts were created by processing location data using the aptly named Processing,  a Java based open-source language for creating visualizations. We chose various time slices, from a single day snapshot to year-to-date images for analyzing longer-term trends.


Ages of People Checking In Around the World[larger version]

This is one day of check-ins that has been plotted so that each pixel is colored if there are at least three check-ins in that pixel. The color ranges from green to blue, representing the average age of users in that pixel. The midpoint between the two colors lies at the global median, so about half the map is blue and half is green. Countries with more early adopter types tend to be blue, while more established regions are green. 


New York City Check-Ins [larger version]

This map illustrates several days worth of check-ins during working hours in New York City. You can see the density of certain areas like Midtown and the Wall Street area, where people are checking into offices and local businesses, while there is less activity in residential areas. 


Checkins by Political Affiliation [larger version]

 This map breaks down check-ins in the United States based on whether the majority of users affiliate with the Democrat (blue) or Republican (red) parties on Facebook. This gives a very fine grained view of the political map beyond a common red/blue state, or even county level, analysis.


Vacations and Travel [larger version]

This map represents a year-to-date view of Facebook users checking into two distinct areas of the world. As a proxy for plane travel, certain restrictions were placed on the distance and time between the two locations. The result was more informative than simply illustrating airport check-ins and demonstrates interesting insights, such as common long-haul travel routes, with a clear concentration between Europe and North America.