Do Diversity and Context Collapse Kill an Online Social Network?

March 16, 2021 4:00 pm Published by

Our social lives are segmented into various circles including family, friends, and colleagues. Differences in social norms and expectations between these circles can create tension, especially on large online social networks (OSNs), where their boundaries are blurred. It is unclear whether such phenomenon, called context collapse, outweighs the convenience of having diverse communities in one place for users of OSNs. To better understand this trade-off, we analyze whether ego-network characteristics suggestive of context collapse can explain exit choices from iWiW, a defunct Hungarian OSN with over 3.5 million active users at its peak. We measured context collapse with the presence of two conditions: the first is that communities of the user are non-overlapping, while the second is that these communities are different from each other. We find that users having merely overlapping communities were more likely to stay on the site. This result suggests that the benefits of being connected to diverse communities outweighs the tension from context collapse. Differences in gender composition of alter communities were associated with leaving, while having geographically distant connections were associated with staying longer on iWiW. Our results suggest that the tradeoff between access to diverse contacts and the stress of context collapse is a salient dimension in predicting user churn.

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This post was written by LorinczL