June 19, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

John Bader
21st March, 2022

‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is a proverb that describes the way a group of people with the same taste, interests, and opinions, usually group up and are found together. According to a new study, they are most likely to retweet the same tweet as well. 

A communication researcher at the University at Buffalo, developed a framework for conceptualizing and measuring public opinion on social media. The framework, called “murmuration”, was the result of an analysis carried out on a sample of 82 twitter accounts.

Murmuration is a bird behaviour in which big groups of birds, called flocks, group up and fly together in the same directions. According to the “murmuration” framework, much like bird groups, social media users tend to form virtual “flocks” that would predictably interact in a similar way with world events shared on social media. 

The framework identifies “flocks” based on “who-follows-whom” relationships. The analysis starts by studying a “seed account”, moving on to study another account following or followed by the “seed account”, and so on. The end result is several networks of accounts that share a common opinion regarding a specific issue – see Figure 1. Based on these networks, or “flocks”, the framework would be able to predict the opinion of each member of each “flock”.

Figure 1  An overview of the murmuration framework developed by the study

As opposed to public opinions accurately concluded from surveys or opinion-polls, the “murmuration” framework is based on probability that solely predicts the behaviour of social media users within “flocks” formed through an analysis sample. The results of the study goes in line with previous knowledge on public opinion and social media, like echo chambers and public spheres. 


Tweet this story, your “flock” will definitely like it and retweet!


John Bader is the News Editor for I,Science and is studying an MSc in Science Media Production at Imperial College London