Dire consequences for Facebook when treated like an infectious disease

Researchers at Cornell University have used classic epidemiological models to predict the future utility and popularity of social media applications.  Treating Facebook like an infectious disease shows dire consequences for these popular social networking giant based on boom-and-crash data collected from MySpace.

The researchers comment that:

“Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models… Ideas are spread through communicative contact between different people who share ideas with each other. Idea manifesters ultimately lose interest with the idea and no longer manifest the idea, which can be thought of as the gain of ‘immunity’ to the idea.”

Here is the abstract:

The last decade has seen the rise of immense online social networks (OSNs) such as MySpace and Facebook. In this paper we use epidemiological models to explain user adoption and abandonment of OSNs, where adoption is analogous to infection and abandonment is analogous to recovery. We modify the traditional SIR model of disease spread by incorporating infectious recovery dynamics such that contact between a recovered and infected member of the population is required for recovery. The proposed infectious recovery SIR model (irSIR model) is validated using publicly available Google search query data for “MySpace” as a case study of an OSN that has exhibited both adoption and abandonment phases. The irSIR model is then applied to search query data for “Facebook,” which is just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase. Extrapolating the best fit model into the future predicts a rapid decline in Facebook activity in the next few years.

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