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Volume 2018, Article ID 9502872, 18 pages
Research Article

Communication in Online Social Networks Fosters Cultural Isolation

ICS/Department of Sociology, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen, Netherlands

Correspondence should be addressed to Marijn A. Keijzer; ln.gur@rezjiek.a.m

Received 17 May 2018; Revised 20 September 2018; Accepted 2 October 2018; Published 4 November 2018

Academic Editor: Roberto Natella

Copyright © 2018 Marijn A. Keijzer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Online social networks play an increasingly important role in communication between friends, colleagues, business partners, and family members. This development sparked public and scholarly debate about how these new platforms affect dynamics of cultural diversity. Formal models of cultural dissemination are powerful tools to study dynamics of cultural diversity but they are based on assumptions that represent traditional dyadic, face-to-face communication, rather than communication in online social networks. Unlike in models of face-to-face communication, where actors update their cultural traits after being influenced by one of their network contacts, communication in online social networks is often characterized by a one-to-many structure, in that users emit messages directly to a large number of network contacts. Using analytical tools and agent-based simulation, we show that this seemingly subtle difference can have profound implications for emergent dynamics of cultural dissemination. In particular, we show that within the framework of our model online communication fosters cultural diversity to a larger degree than offline communication and it increases chances that individuals and subgroups become culturally isolated from their network contacts.