People with the most “social ties” are more likely to heed official warnings and flee during a hurricane, revealed a big data study by Facebook’s AI Research (FAIR) group.
Ties associated with bonding capital, such as a user’s number of friends (first degree network size) and the density of their network (clustering coefficient), are related with lower likelihood of evacuation (the former more consistently than the latter), TheNextWeb reported on Tuesday.
“Our analysis confirms that, holding confounding factors constant, several aspects of social capital are correlated with whether or not an individual evacuates,” researchers including Danae Metaxa-Kakavouli from the Stanford University, US, said in a statement.
“Higher levels of bridging and linking social ties correlate strongly with evacuation.”
Further, the ties associated with bridging and linking capital, measured by second-degree network size and the number of politicians followed, were also found to be associated with a greater likelihood of evacuation.
However, these social capital related factors are not significantly associated with the rate of return after evacuation, the findings showed.
The data, which Facebook compiled from users affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, shows that the “social capital” it is referring to isn’t necessarily only about the size of your Friends List, it’s about how you use it.
Those who follow more than two politicians, for example, are among those more likely to evacuate. Facebook postulates this may be in correlation to the amount of exposure from “official” sources a person has to evacuation information and directions.
People with stronger secondary networks — people outside of your family and local friends — were also more likely to evacuate. This would seem to indicate that the more exposure a person has to people outside of their locale during a disaster, the more likely they are to feel comfortable leaving home.
Facebook will use the research data to study the influence of specific messaging on evacuation behaviour, something that could help direct evacuation efforts in the future, the report said.