Session J54: Focus Session: Complex and Co-evolving Networks - Empirical Studies of Social Networks

11:15 AM–2:03 PM, Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Room: 152

Sponsoring Unit: GSNP
Chair: Gene Stanley, Boston University

Abstract ID: BAPS.2012.MAR.J54.1

Abstract: J54.00001 : Modeling users' activity on Twitter networks: validation of Dunbar's number

11:15 AM–11:27 AM

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  Bruno Goncalves
    (Northeastern University)

  Nicola Perra
    (Northeastern University)

  Alessandro Vespignani
    (Northeastern University)

Microblogging and mobile devices appear to augment human social capabilities, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive or biological constraints on human communication. In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar's number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar's result; users can entertain a maximum of 100-200 stable relationships. Thus, the ``economy of attention'' is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar's theory. We propose a simple model for users' behavior that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behavior.

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