Network Wormholes


Singapore Twitter network colored by different language communities. Network wormholes overlaid in yellow lines..


Long-range connections that span large social networks are widely assumed to be weak, composed of sporadic and emotionally distant relationships. However, researchers historically have lacked the population-scale network data needed to verify the predicted weakness. Using data from 11 culturally diverse population-scale networks on four continents—encompassing 56 million Twitter users and 58 million mobile phone subscribers—we find that long-range ties are nearly as strong as social ties embedded within a small circle of friends. These high-bandwidth connections have important implications for diffusion and social integration.

This work was published in Science. Here is a short video that explains the main findings.


For this study, I collected 158 million Twitter user accounts between 2013 and 2014 and constructed bidirected @mention networks in eight countries. The edgelists for these eight countries, with @mention frequency as weights, can be found in Harvard Dataverse.