Some social connections are stronger than others. People have not only friends, but also best friends. Social scientists have long recognized this characteristic of social connections and researchers frequently use the term “tie strength” to refer to this concept. We used online interaction data (specifically, Facebook interactions) to successfully identify real-world strong ties.
Ground truth was established by asking users themselves to name their closest friends in real life. We found the frequency of online interaction was diagnostic of strong ties, and interaction frequency was much more useful diagnostically than were attributes of the user or the user’s friends.
More private communications (messages) were not necessarily more informative than public communications (comments, wall posts, and other interactions).