LONDON: If you think that Facebook eats up most of your time, then it's only going to get worse, suggests a new study.
Researchers at City University of Hong Kong have suggested that users become more active in online social networks as they grow bigger, reports New Scientist.
The researchers considered behaviour in two online networks: the Chinese blogging site Sina and a peer-to-peer file-sharing system called Tianwang.
By comparing the growth of these networks with user activity, they managed to settle a long-standing argument. There are two competing schools of thought when it comes to the growth of online social networks. One suggests that networks grow in a linear fashion: in other words, the activity of each user doesn't change much and so network activity grows in proportion with the number of users.
However, the second theory suggests that network growth is non-linear: as a network grows in size, users also use it more, causing total network activity to increase far more quickly than the linear model would predict.
The study results support the non-linear hypothesis, as the researchers observed that both blogging and peer-to-peer file-sharing sites see users becoming far more active on the networks the larger they get.
In the case of the peer-to-peer network, the team found that if the number of users doubled, their activity rose by a factor of 3.16. They also discovered that the bigger the inequality in activity between users, the quicker the network would grow.
"It makes sense that the total activity in a social system would be non-linear, because in a social system, the more people there are, the more things there are to do," said Mike Thelwall, of the University of Wolverhampton, UK.
"This would probably transfer to Facebook and Twitter, too. You might start to rely on Facebook or Twitter if a high proportion of your friends were on them," said Thelwall.
The team has also found that the increased activity follows a pattern known as a time-invariant power law-one of the upshots of which is that all users tend to become more active in the network. So there's no point deluding yourself: Facebook definitely is sucking up more of your time than ever before.