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Twitter is an interesting social network because you don’t have to accept another user’s following you. Anyone could be following you. Your followers do not necessarily have to be your friends. But Tweets are supposed to be a status update, so these random people could get to know a lot about you. The 140-character limit, however, limits how much you can say and how much they can find out about you. In addition, there is no need to reveal your true identity on Twitter, you can use a nickname, where as on Facebook, that is much harder to do. Although, if your followers are mostly friends, and most of them go to Cornell, it is easy to assume that you go to Cornell too.

One of my followers is @NotFrat. He follows everyone that follows @totalfratmove. I’m not sure how he intends to fulfill his purpose, but he wants everyone to “realize your potential flaws one tweet at a time.” I guess he wants you to follow him back so that you get his Tweets on your feed, but who would follow him back if you like and therefore are following TFM?

The network created by Twitter, then, does not really tell you much about friendships. It could, however, give you other information. If you form a network with nodes of users and edges of followers, you could see information about who is interested in what. Using the retweet feature, your followers could find out about something you find interesting, which, if they are following you, probably means that they find it interesting as well (but it could be a positive or a negative reaction). Then your followers may decide to follow that user since the post was interesting, or they may have just learned some information that they didn’t know.

This creates a complicated web that could be hard to obtain information from.

Another network you could look at would be to have the nodes as users again, but have the edges be Tweets at another user. The edges would be fewer and far apart, but you are more likely to include other users that you know well in your Tweets, and not just reading people’s Tweets that you don’t know (like someone famous). This could give an indication of friendships, although this still isn’t 100% guaranteed.

There is a possibility of having an isolated group that only follow each other and use it as a form of communication, like a mass text message, or something they want all their friends to know. But they have no way of stopping other people from following them and therefore seeing their posts, although nobody would follow them if it was only interesting to that group. There are some weirdoes on Twitter that find random things funny, though. Or maybe your enemies want to find out what you are talking about, so that wouldn’t really work.

Basically Twitter, as a social networking site, doesn’t really tell you anything about the social network, but tells you instead about the spread and chain of information. Its just a quicker way of using word of mouth –  a friend telling a friend telling a friend telling a friend.


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