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This new algorithm can tell how old you are based on your Instagram activity

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What if we told you that we could tell roughly how old you are based on your Instagram activity? A new algorithm from researchers at Pennsylvania State University apparently can do just that, and what it has shown about how the different generations use Instagram, and social media in general, is quite interesting.

The current generation lives their lives through social media. They use platforms like Instagram to show off their every emotion and mood. According to studies of the Instagram API, teenagers are more likely to interact with photos through likes and comments. However, even though they seem to connect with more posts they statistically post less often than other users.

This could be explained because they are more prone to delete posts they perceive as under-liked. Teens are very conscious about how much their posts are interacted with by others. Also, teens tend to post on a more narrow variety of topics. This is likely due to the fact that adults have more disposable income and can post on a more diverse range of subjects, such as vacations and other activities.

While teens appear to be more dependent on the popularity of their posts, there are subtleties to what interactions on each social media mean. Facebook recently introduced emojis to replace their Thumbs Up “Like” button to allow for more personalized dialogue without using comments. They include a heart for love, laughing, a wow, and anger. Not only does this allow for more specialized socialization on Facebook, but each emoji can mean a variety of things. A heart for example doesn’t necessarily mean you love the topic of the post, but could just be conveying love to the writer.

This makes it hard for an algorithm to know what the user meant through their interaction. “Even if we develop an algorithm that classifies a like,” Dongwon Lee, a participating professor at Penn State says, “no one can tell if our algorithm’s result is correct or not.”

The team at Penn State is working on a system to better identify the intent behind interactions on Facebook and other more complex social networking sites, but the work that they have started with Instagram is quite interesting. It’s one thing to see that people are interacting, but it’s another to know why they are interacting, and figuring out the why could be the next big frontier of social networking, online and in real life.

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Anthony Thurston
Anthony is an internationally published photographer based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Specializing primarily in…
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