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Topic-based Clusters in Egocentric Networks on Facebook

Homophily suggests that people tend to bond over similarities- perhaps a love of the same subject or a common experience. This theory seems very natural, as similarities give people more to share and connect. The idea of homophily has been tested and proven many times between two people, pre-defined social groups, and over global patterns. In this article, Lilian Weng and Thomas Lento from Facebook explore a new aspect of homophily by taking on the perspective of a single actor. This person, the “ego”, is the “center” of all of his or her Facebook friends (the “alters”).

This study looked at a dataset of approximately 65,000 randomly chosen egos, or Facebook users and constructed an ego network consisting of that ego and his or her Facebook friends. Specifically, the study analyzed topic clusters, defined as a subgraph of the ego network consisting of alters who respond through likes, comments, and shares to any post that ego makes. Throughout a time period of around a month, the study showed that people in clusters have dense connectivities, high growth rates, and little overlap with each other. More links were formed among alters that were involved in the same cluster than randomly selected pairs.

As we discussed in class, links between two people are more likely to form under triadic closure because this implies that the two people are similar. In this case, two people are similar because they have a mutual friend and they also have an interested in the same topic (as demonstrated through belonging to a topic cluster). Some of the shared materials include comedy, music, politics, and religion, and two strangers commenting on one post means that they are more likely to have a similar sense of humor, preference of music, political opinion, or religious background.

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