The Social World of Twitter: Topics, Geography, and Emotions

Quercia, Daniele (University of Cambridge) | Capra, Licia (University College London) | Crowcroft, Jon (University of Cambridge)

AAAI Conferences 

Debate is open as to whether social media communities resemble real-life communities, and to what extent. We contribute to this discussion by testing whether established sociological theories of real-life networks hold in Twitter. In particular, for 228,359 Twitter profiles, we compute network metrics (e.g., reciprocity, structural holes, simmelian ties) that the sociological literature has found to be related to parts of one's social world (i.e., to topics, geography and emotions), and test whether these real-life associations still hold in Twitter. We find that, much like individuals in real-life communities, social brokers (those who span structural holes) are opinion leaders who tweet about diverse topics, have geographically wide networks, and express not only positive but also negative emotions. Furthermore, Twitter users who express positive (negative) emotions cluster together, to the extent of having a correlation coefficient between one's emotions and those of friends as high as 0.45. Understanding Twitter's social dynamics does not only have theoretical implications for studies of social networks but also has practical implications, including the design of self-reflecting user interfaces that make people aware of their emotions, spam detection tools, and effective marketing campaigns.