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The evolution of social ties online: A longitudinal study in a massively multiplayer online game

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Abstract

How do social ties in online worlds evolve over time? This research examined the dynamic processes of relationship formation, maintenance, and demise in a massively multiplayer online game. Drawing from evolutionary and ecological theories of social networks, this study focuses on the impact of three sets of evolutionary factors in the context of social relationships in the online game EverQuest II (EQII): the aging and maturation processes, social architecture of the game, and homophily and proximity. A longitudinal analysis of tie persistence and decay demonstrated the transient nature of social relationships in EQII, but ties became considerably more durable over time. Also, character level similarity, shared guild membership, and geographic proximity were powerful mechanisms in preserving social relationships.

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