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Journal Article

Successive Cohorts of Twitter Users Show Increasing Activity and Shrinking Content Horizons


Wolf,  Frederik
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Lehmann,  Sune
External Organizations;

Lorenz-Spreen,  Philipp
External Organizations;

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Wolf, F., Lehmann, S., Lorenz-Spreen, P. (2022): Successive Cohorts of Twitter Users Show Increasing Activity and Shrinking Content Horizons. - Journal of Quantitative Description, 2.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27215
The global public sphere has changed dramatically over the past decades: A significant part of public discourse now takes place on algorithmically driven platforms. Despite its growing importance, there is scant large-scale academic research on the long-term evolution of user behaviour on these platforms. Here, we evaluate the behaviour of 600,000 individual Twitter users between 2012 and 2019 and find empirical evidence for a cohort-level acceleration of the way Twitter is used. Across time, we observe changing user-level behaviours: more tweets per time, denser interactions with others via retweets, and shorter content horizons, expressed as an individual's decaying autocorrelation of topics over time. We show that the change in usage patterns is not simply caused by a growing user base. While behaviour remains remarkably stable within each cohort over time, we relate these observations to changing compositions of new users with each new cohort containing increasingly active individuals. Our findings complement recent empirical work on social acceleration by tracking cohorts over time, controlling for cohort size, and analyzing their behavioural composition.