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Revealing Human Nature Through Social Media Measurement
Posted on April 19th 2012
The Atlantic Ocean contains 100 billion, billion gallons of water and "if each gallon of water represented a byte or character, the Atlantic Ocean would be able to store, just barely, all the data generated by the world in 2010", as stated by DARPA director Dr. Kaigham Gabriel.
This recently published article in Nature examined how memes and ideas behave on social media platforms, shedding light on the nature of human behaviour online. In it, the research team claimed that (on Twitter at least) the average online user engages with only a limited number of memes as certain ideas survive, indeed thrive, at the expense of others. Memes, in effect, are living entities, constantly competing amongst each other for survival and our limited attention.
If this Darwin-esque competition for survival amongst memes is true, then it quickly suggests that on social media platforms available today, few memes attain popularity and are long-lived, while the majority come and go quickly. Put differently, a small amount of memes account for the majority of posts online. This phenomenon plays out when accounting for the behaviour of influential users on Twitter as roughly 10% of social media users account for 90% of the volume of Tweets.
The article concluded that the nature of information within digital social networks is similar to that of a virus or “an epidemic process” where memes and ideas are passed along the edges or “weak links” of a network and, if influential enough, “generate a complex information landscape and define a wide range of different meme spreading patterns”.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe that we need to ask this type of question about social data, which attempt to get to the heart of online human behaviour and provide deeper levels of insight. If you want to join this exploration into the future of social media analysis then click here.