Contact activity and dynamics of the social core

Enys Mones, Arkadiusz Stopczynski, Sune Lehmann Jørgensen

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Humans interact through numerous communication channels to build and maintain social connections: they meet face-to-face, make phone calls or send text messages, and interact via social media. Although it is known that the network of physical contacts, for example, is distinct from the network arising from communication events via phone calls and instant messages, the extent to which these networks differ is not clear. We show here that the network structure of these channels show large structural variations. The various channels account for diverse relationships between pairs of individuals and the corresponding interaction patterns across channels differ to an extent that social ties cannot easily be reduced to a single layer. Each network of interactions, however, contains both central and peripheral individuals: central members are characterized by higher connectivity and can reach a large fraction of the network within a low number of steps, in contrast to the nodes on the periphery. The origin and purpose of each communication network also determine the role of their respective central members: highly connected individuals in the person-to-person networks interact with their environment in a regular manner, while members central in the social communication networks display irregular behavior with respect to their physical contacts and are more active through irregular social events. Our results suggest that due to the inherently different functions of communication channels, each one favors different social behaviors and different strategies for interacting with the environment. These findings can facilitate the understanding of the varying roles and impact individuals have on the population, which can further shed light on the prediction and prevention of epidemic outbreaks, or information propagation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalE P J Data Science
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Social networks
  • Online behavior
  • Contact patterns
  • Physical proximity

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