Online social media have greatly affected the way in which we communicate with each other. However, little is known about what are the fundamental mechanisms driving dynamical information flow in online social systems. Here, we introduce a generative model for online sharing behavior and analytically show, using techniques from mathematical population genetics, that competition between memes for the limited resource of user attention leads to a type of self-organized criticality, with heavy-tailed distributions of meme popularity: a few memes "go viral" but the majority become only moderately popular. The time-dependent solutions of the model are shown to fit empirical micro-blogging data on hashtag usage, and to predict novel scaling features of the data. The presented framework, in contrast to purely empirical studies or simulation-based models, clearly distinguishes the roles of two distinct factors affecting meme popularity: the memory time of users and the connectivity structure of the social network.
Determinants of Meme Popularity
James P. Gleeson, Kevin P. O'Sullivan, Raquel A. Baños, Yamir Moreno
Via Complexity Digest