The wide adoption of social media has increased the competition among ideas for our finite attention. We employ a parsimonious agent-based model to study whether such a competition may affect the popularity of different memes, the diversity of information we are exposed to, and the fading of our collective interests for specific topics. Agents share messages on a social network but can only pay attention to a portion of the information they receive. In the emerging dynamics of information diffusion, a few memes go viral while most do not. The predictions of our model are consistent with empirical data from Twitter, a popular microblogging platform. Surprisingly, we can explain the massive heterogeneity in the popularity and persistence of memes as deriving from a combination of the competition for our limited attention and the structure of the social network, without the need to assume different intrinsic values among ideas.
In most social and information systems the activity of agents generates rapidly evolving time-varying networks. The temporal variation in networks' connectivity patterns and the ongoing dynamic processes are usually coupled in ways that still challenge our mathematical or computational modelling. Here we analyse a mobile call dataset and find a simple statistical law that characterize the temporal evolution of users' egocentric networks. We encode this observation in a reinforcement process defining a time-varying network model that exhibits the emergence of strong and weak ties. We study the effect of time-varying and heterogeneous interactions on the classic rumour spreading model in both synthetic, and real-world networks. We observe that strong ties severely inhibit information diffusion by confining the spreading process among agents with recurrent communication patterns. This provides the counterintuitive evidence that strong ties may have a negative role in the spreading of information across networks.
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