Digital & Social

My First Experience with Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Screen Shot

What people say about Facebook’s new Graph Search ranges from totally awesome to stalker-ish creepy. Articles have been published on how to use Graph Search to find a job. A Tumblr was created solely to show how revealing Actual Facebook Graph Searches can be.

Today I sat down and gave the new search engine a little test drive. My thoughts: it hits all the above quite firmly.

Now, some background. Last weekend, I took a little bike ride. Nothing too spectacular, just joined over 11,000 others on Group Health’s annual Seattle to Portland ride. Logged about 210 miles over the course of two days.

This was my third time completing the journey, and once again I stayed with family friends at the midpoint in Centralia, WA. Contrary to other two years, 2013 saw R.O. and W.O. hosting a larger group; there were about 20 of us there.

(For the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from using their real names and use first and last initials instead, despite what’s visible in the screen shot.)

I met a wonderful couple named C.M. and M.O. We three connected several times on the road the second day, and verbal plans were made to connect in the near future. The only problem: we didn’t exchange contact information.

Here’s what was known about the two:
• His and her first names only
• His place of work
• The city in which they reside
• A key interest of his

Within 5 minutes, I had located both individuals on Facebook using Graph. Here’s how I did it.

1. His First Name AND Employer
First I typed in his first name and his employer. This prompted me to click a search query for “People named ‘C.’ who work at ‘A.'” This yielded roughly 5 pages of results, none of which were C.M.

2. His First Name AND “In A Relationship” with Her First Name
No results. This means they haven’t made it official on Facebook.

3. His First Name AND Key Interest AND City of Residence
The results of this search far exceeded my interest to peruse them, so I took a different approach.

4. Her First Name AND City of Residence
Being that her first name is less common, it should have been my starting point. However, as I knew more information about him, that’s where I began. Searching with this query yielded a single page of results and she was in it.

5. Searching Her Friends for Him
Visiting her list of friends, I was able to locate him quickly.

These five steps took all of five minutes. Five minutes to locate people I know virtually nothing about outside of a few highly general facts. That’s scary accurate, a bit creepy, and — of course — totally awesome.

Were I more observant, I could have narrowed the results in #3 by the “Refine This Search” column to the right of the original results. This allows you to specify options like Gender, Relationship, Employer, Current City, Hometown, School and many more.

Yes, Facebook Graph Search is shaping up to be a bit of a game changer. With the quantity of information Facebook has logged on its users, it’s a bit surprising more people are up in arms about the NSA rather than shutting down their Facebook accounts.

Still, it’s power is that of sheer awesomeness… and will be until something embarrassing about you inevitably gets exposed. I’m sure we all have one or two things we wish we hadn’t shared, said, commented or liked on Facebook.

If you’re worried about that, two good reads include this Slate article on changing your privacy settings and this notable article from Mashable, the latter of which reminds us:

“It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook,” reads a Facebook press release.