People nowadays express their opinions in online spaces, using different forms of interactions such as posting, sharing and discussing with one another. These digital traces allow to capture how people dynamically react to the myriad of events occurring in the world. By unfolding the structure of Reddit conversations, we describe how highly engaging events happening in the society affect user interactions and behaviour with respect to unperturbed discussion patterns.
Conversations, defined as a post and the comments underneath, are analysed along their temporal and semantic dimensions. We disclose that changes in the pace and language used in conversations exhibit notable similarities across diverse events. Conversations tend to become repetitive with a more limited vocabulary, display different semantic structures and feature heightened emotions.
As the event approaches, the shifts occurring in conversations are reflected in the users’ dynamics. Users become more active and they exchange information with a growing audience, despite using a less rich vocabulary and repetitive messages. The peers of each user fill up more semantic space, shifting the dialogue and widening the exchange of information. The recurring patterns we discovered are persistent across several contexts, thus represent a fingerprint of human behavior, which could impact the modeling of online social networks interactions.