Are you a social keeper or a social explorer?

In our last (just accepted) paper “Limited communication capacity unveils strategies for human interaction” [link] we have found that we humans have different social strategies when we communicate/interact with people. Specifically, the sociability of a person (the total number of contacts in a time interval) which is usually taken as the connectivity in the social network is actually the result of two different human features:

  • Social capacity: the number of relationships humans can maintain opened and which is limited
  • Social activity: the number of relationships human form and destroy as a consequence of their daily tasks, family, events, etc.

Social capacity and activity are very heterogenous and while most individuals have small capacity and activity, some might have large values for those characteristics. The ratio between these characteristics of human interaction determines the social strategy:

  • Social keepers: these people have a small social activity compared to their social capacity, that is, they interact mostly with the same people in a time interval and form/destroy a small number of ties.
  • Social explorers: the opposite strategy, meaning that most of the interactions of these people are form and destroyed rapidly while keeping a very small number of stable connections.
  • Social balanced: most of the people have a balance social strategy in which the number of form/destroy interactions is proportional to their capacity.

To show how these strategies look like, we have produce the following videos where you can see the tie dynamics around a social explorer and a social keeper (red nodes) for a period of 7 months. Note that if you aggregate the activity of these two people over those 7 months, the will have the same connectivity. But clearly their instantaneous network is very different!

So, what do you think is your social strategy? Are you a social explorer or a social keeper?

Social explorer

Social keeper

Note: these videos are produced using R and the igraph library. Learn how to make them in my post here


Esteban Moro

Professor at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and MIT Medialab. Working on Complex Systems, Social Networks and Urban Science.