This paper uses geolocated Twitter histories from approximately 25,000 individuals in 6 different time zones and 3 different countries to construct a proper time-zone dependent hourly baseline for social media activity studies. We establish that, across multiple regions and time periods, interaction with social media is strongly conditioned by traditional bio-rhythmic or “Circadian” patterns, and that in the United States, this pattern is itself further conditioned by the ideological bent of the user. Using a time series of these histories around the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, we show that external events of great significance can disrupt traditional social media activity patterns, and that this disruption can be significant (in some cases doubling the amplitude and shifting the phase of activity up to an hour). We find that the disruption of use patterns can last an extended period of time, and in many cases, aspects of this disruption would not be detected without a circadian baseline.
Pinning down the role of social ties in the decision to protest has been notoriously elusive largely due to data limitations. Social media and their global use by protesters offer an unprecedented opportunity to observe real-time social ties and online behavior, though often without an attendant measure of real-world behavior. We collect data on Twitter activity during the 2015 Charlie Hebdo protest in Paris, which, unusually, record real-world protest attendance and network structure measured beyond egocentric networks. We devise a test of social theories of protest that hold that participation depends on exposure to others' intentions and network position determines exposure. Our findings are strongly consistent with these theories, showing that protesters are significantly more connected to one another via direct, indirect, triadic, and reciprocated ties than comparable nonprotesters. These results offer the first large-scale empirical support for the claim that social network structure has consequences for protest participation.