The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Ksenia Tsyganova, Dmitri Tsyganov, Anatoliy Gruzd: Comparing Friendship vs Communication Networks among Members of Politically Motivated Online Groups

Ksenia Tsyganova, St Petersburg State University

Dmitri Tsyganov, St Petersburg State University

Anatoliy Gruzd, Ryerson University

When analyzing online groups and their interactions, network researchers often rely on one of the two types of social network data: (1) a Friendship network (‘who is a friend with whom’) or (2) a Communication network (‘who interacts or communicates with whom’), but rarely both. And depending on the type of social network data researchers have access to, researchers can reach very different conclusions about the group being studied. To ensure that we can get a more accurate understanding of group dynamics on social networking sites, this study examines and compares both friendship and communications network ties formed on VKontakte (VK), a popular social networking site in Eastern Europe.

The results show that in the majority of the cases that we examined, no correlation was found between the friendship and communication networks. This suggests that VK friends who are members of the same public group are not likely to communicate with each other online. In other words, there are other factors such as the topic of a thread that may explain why group members engage in online discussions. The fact that VK group members do not engage their VK friends online may be a sign of hostile discussions, as we would generally expect a lower level of hostility between interactions among self-declared friends. If this supposition holds in our future work, we may be able to use correlation between friendship and communication networks (or lack of it) as an indicator of the level of hostility in an online group. Information like this would be extremely valuable to group moderators who might be able to use such insights to intervene in group discussions as needed.


Ksenia Tsyganova, Dmitri Tsyganov, Anatoliy Gruzd