Navigating the massive world of reddit: Using backbone networks to map user interests in social media

Randal S. Olson, Zachary P. Neal

In the massive online worlds of social media, users frequently rely on organizing themselves around specific topics of interest to find and engage with like-minded people. However, navigating these massive worlds and finding topics of specific interest often proves difficult because the worlds are mostly organized haphazardly, leaving users to find relevant interests by word of mouth or using a basic search feature. Here, we report on a method using the backbone of a network to create a map of the primary topics of interest in any social network. To demonstrate the method, we build an interest map for the social news web site reddit and show how such a map could be used to navigate a social media world. Moreover, we analyze the network properties of the reddit social network and find that it has a scale-free, small-world, and modular community structure, much like other online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. We suggest that the integration of interest maps into popular social media platforms will assist users in organizing themselves into more specific interest groups, which will help alleviate the overcrowding effect often observed in large online communities.

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