The effect of social balance on social fragmentation

Pham, T.M., Kondor, I., Hanel, R., & Thurner, S. (2020). The effect of social balance on social fragmentation. arXiv (Submitted)

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With the availability of cell phones, internet, social media etc. the interconnectedness of people within most societies has increased drastically over the past three decades. Across the same timespan, we are observing the phenomenon of increasing levels of fragmentation in society into relatively small and isolated groups that have been termed filter bubbles, or echo chambers. These pose a number of threats to open societies, in particular, a radicalisation in political, social or cultural issues, and a limited access to facts. In this paper we show that these two phenomena might be tightly related. We study a simple stochastic co-evolutionary model of a society of interacting people. People are not only able to update their opinions within their social context, but can also update their social links from collaborative to hostile, and vice versa. The latter is implemented such that social balance is realised. We find that there exists a critical level of interconnectedness, above which society fragments into small sub-communities that are positively linked within and hostile towards other groups. We argue that the existence of a critical communication density is a universal phenomenon in all societies that exhibit social balance. The necessity arises from the underlying mathematical structure of a phase transition phenomenon that is known from the theory of a kind of disordered magnets called spin glasses. We discuss the consequences of this phase transition for social fragmentation in society.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Physics and Society; Social and Information Networks; Adaptation and Self-Organizing Systems
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 11:35
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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