Temporal patterns behind the strength of persistent ties

Henry Navarro, Giovanna Miritello, Arturo Canales, Esteban Moro

Social networks are made out of strong and weak ties having very different structural and dynamical properties. But, what features of human interaction build a strong tie? Here we approach this question from an practical way by finding what are the properties of social interactions that make ties more persistent and thus stronger to maintain social interactions in the future. Using a large longitudinal mobile phone database we build a predictive model of tie persistence based on intensity, intimacy, structural and temporal patterns of social interaction. While our results confirm that structural (embeddedness) and intensity (number of calls) are correlated with tie persistence, we find that temporal features of communication events are better and more efficient predictors for tie persistence. Specifically, although communication within ties is always bursty we find that ties that are more bursty than the average are more likely to decay, signaling that tie strength is not only reflected in the intensity or topology of the network, but also on how individuals distribute time or attention across their relationships. We also found that stable relationships have and require a constant rhythm and if communication is halted for more than 8 times the previous communication frequency, most likely the tie will decay. Our results not only are important to understand the strength of social relationships but also to unveil the entanglement between the different temporal scales in networks, from microscopic tie burstiness and rhythm to macroscopic network evolution.

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