Rhythms of social interaction at Facebook

Rhythms of social interaction: messaging within a massive online network. Scott A. Golder, Dennis M. Wilkinson and Bernardo A. Huberman (HP labs).

Scott Golder presenting at C&T. Log analysis of Facebook messaging patterns, from 496 North American universities.

The college weekend goes Friday noon to Sunday noon. Message traffic follows the same pattern Mon-Thurs. Friday morning is same as Mon-Thurs. morning. Sunday afternoon/evening is same as Mon-Thurs. Saturday all day, plus Friday PM and Sunday AM, have much lower traffic.

45% of messages and pokes went to people at different schools. However, this percentage was much lower in the late night/early morning hours.

Perhaps the most surprising result is the seasonal variation in the percentage of messages that are within versus between schools. During vacations, the percentage of within-school messages increases! The authors give the plausible explanation that the messaging is substituting for in-person communication between the same people that would occur when school is in session. This seems surprising to me, however, as I would have thought that the complementarity effect would be stronger– you send a poke or message to someone that you saw earlier today or expect to see later today. It would be interesting to see some future research that explores more directly the complementarity/substitution effects of various communication modalities with f2f meetings in everyday use.


About Paul Resnick

Professor, University of Michigan School of Information Personal home page
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