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Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2014, Article ID 578713, 6 pages
Research Article

A Comparison of Online Social Networks and Real-Life Social Networks: A Study of Sina Microblogging

Department of New Media and Arts, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150001, China

Received 10 November 2013; Revised 17 February 2014; Accepted 21 March 2014; Published 22 April 2014

Academic Editor: Guoqiang Hu

Copyright © 2014 Dayong Zhang and Guang Guo. 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 appear to enrich our social life, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive constraints on human communication and improve human social capabilities. In this paper, we analyze the users' following and followed relationships based on the data of Sina Microblogging and reveal several structural properties of Sina Microblogging. Compared with real-life social networks, our results confirm some similar features. However, Sina Microblogging also shows its own specialties, such as hierarchical structure and degree disassortativity, which all mark a deviation from real-life social networks. The low cost of the online network forms a broader perspective, and the one-way link relationships make it easy to spread information, but the online social network does not make too much difference in the creation of strong interpersonal relationships. Finally, we describe the mechanisms for the formation of these characteristics and discuss the implications of these structural properties for the real-life social networks.