Daily rhythms of digital activity vary strongly from person to person

A new study shows that people tend to have distinctive, personal rhythms of digital communication that persist in time.

Daily rhythms of mobile phone calls for three individuals. The black line depicts the population average; green/red areas indicate times where the individual calls more/less than average. A is day-active, B is morning-active, and C is active at night.

Over the past decade, there has been a surge of scientific studies on digital activity, such as mobile calls, text messages, e-mails, and posts and edits on social media. Because nearly all human behavior leaves a digital footprint, scientists can use such digital activity as a proxy to track human activity in general, for example to study differences between cultures or communities in sleep patterns, work schedules, and leisure activities.

The research shows that people tend to have their personal rhythm of digital activity, almost like a personal signature.

– Each individual follows their own distinctive and persistent daily rhythm, says Doctoral Candidate Talayeh Aledavood, who performed the research together with Jari Saramäki, Associate Professor at Aalto University, and Sune Lehmann, Associate Professor at the Technical University Denmark.

These personal rhythms could be detected in multiple datasets, and to a similar extent for e-mail, phone calls, and text messages.

–   In almost every case, the individual patterns differ strongly from the average behavior, for example by increased calling frequency during mornings, mid-days, or evenings, continues Aledavood.

Geographical and cultural differences

What drives these individual differences is not yet clear. Geographical and cultural differences clearly play a role. The researchers believe that there could also be an effect of physiology: for example, the difference between morning and evening persons, and highly individual patterns of alertness during the daylight hours.

– We see this research as a first step of the way to understanding how activity patterns and chronotype are related to other personal characteristics, such as personality or mobility behavior, states Sune Lehmann.

Research findings could also have medical applications in the future: digital rhythms could be selectively monitored for patients with mental health problems: sudden changes in these patients' digital rhythms could be a sign that medical intervention may be necessary.

 – Combining this research with big data may also open new avenues of research in sleep studies, concludes Saramäki.

 In a new study in the open-access journal Frontiers in Physics, researchers from Aalto University and Technical University of Denmark use a new approach to study digital rhythms. In contrast to previous studies that focused on general patterns across large numbers of people, they search for pronounced, long-term differences in rhythm between individuals.

Article http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fphy.2015.00073/abstract

More information:

Professor Jari Saramäki
Tel. 040 525 4285
[email protected]

Doctoral candidate Talayeh Aledavood
[email protected]

 

Related news

Mika Juuti studied the use of machine learning in information security for his dissertation.
Research & Art Published:

Information security researchers need to anticipate the next step of an attacker

In his doctoral studies, Mika Juuti focused on machine learning methods in information security
Photoactive rod-like virus bundle schematic
Press releases, Research & Art, University Published:

Dyes and viruses create new composite material for photooxidation reactions

A recent study shows that native viruses can be employed as a scaffold to immobilise photoactive molecules to potentially oxidise organic pollutants present in wastewater, under visible light irradiation
Academy of Management 2019 logo
Research & Art Published:

SUB researchers to present at the Academy of Management conference in Boston

From August 9-13, several members of the SUB research group will participate in the 79th annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Boston, USA. They will join scholars from across the world to share and discuss the latest research on the conference theme Understanding the Inclusive Organization, examining how organizations impact communities on many different dimensions, from the psychological to the ecological.
Kuva: Sanna Lehto
Cooperation, Research & Art, Studies Published:

Breaking the chain of vulnerability

How empathy, close listening and design thinking enable Claudia Garduño and the AaltoLAB Mexico to find the most urgent problems in an indigenous community.
  • Published:
  • Updated:
Share
URL copied!