Professor in Political Science and Computer and Information Science

David Lazer

#Bigbirds Never Die: Understanding Social Dynamics of Emergent Hashtags

Peer Reviewed Computer Science Conference
Publication date: 
05/2013
Authors: 
Yu-Ru Lin
Drew B. Margolin
Brian Keegan
Andrea Baronchelli
David Lazer
#Bigbirds Never Die: Understanding Social Dynamics of Emergent Hashtags

We examine the growth, survival, and context of 256 novel hashtags during the 2012 U.S. presidential debates. Our analysis reveals the trajectories of hashtag use fall into two distinct classes: "winners" that emerge more quickly and are sustained for longer periods of time than other "also-rans" hashtags. We propose a "conversational vibrancy" framework to capture dynamics of hashtags based on their topicality, interactivity, diversity, and prominence. Statistical analyses of the growth and persistence of hashtags reveal novel relationships between features of this framework and the relative success of hashtags. Specifically, retweets always contribute to faster hashtag adoption, replies extend the life of "winners" while having no effect on "also-rans." This is the first study on the lifecycle of hashtag adoption and use in response to purely exogenous shocks. We draw on theories of uses and gratification, organizational ecology, and language evolution to discuss these findings and their implications for understanding social influence and collective action in social media more generally.

Research Areas TOC

Computational Social Science, Collective Cognition

Computational Social Science, 21st Century Democracy, Political Networks

Computational Social Science, Political Networks

DNA and the Criminal Justice System

21st Century Democracy, Political Networks