Gender-specific homophily on Instagram and implications on information spread.

Scientific reports(2024)

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More and more social interactions happen online. On online social networks such as Instagram, millions of users share, like, and comment on photos and videos every day, interacting with other users world wide, at large scale and at a high rate. These networks do not only introduce new user experiences, but they also enable new insights into human behavior. Here, we use these new possibilities to study homophilic behavior-the tendency of individuals to bond with people similar to themselves. While homophilic behavior has been observed in many contexts, little is known about gender-specific differences and the extent of homophilic behavior of female and male users in online social networks. Based on a unique and extensive data set, covering over 800,000 (directed) Instagram interactions and a time span of three years, we shed light on differences between genders and uncover an intriguing asymmetry of homophily. In particular, we show that female users exhibit homophily to a larger extent than male users. The magnitude of this asymmetry depends on the type of interaction, as differences are more pronounced for 'comment'-interactions than for 'like'-interactions. Given these empirical observations, we further study the implications of such gender differences on the spread of information in social networks in a basic model. We find that on average, a piece of information that originates from a female group reaches significantly more female users than male users.
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