A social media platform like Twitter is a kind of social science laboratory that can be sliced in various ways. (For some serious social media slicing and dicing, check out the work of my friend Dan Zarrella.)

Traditional community dynamics apply – there are high-status individuals who have legions of followers and wield considerable influence, and lower-status individuals who have little impact on the community. Principles like reciprocity are at work – if one individual retweets another’s post, it creates a little social obligation for the second to reciprocate. (As in real life, if there’s a big status difference between the two people, the drive to reciprocate may be much smaller or even nonexistent.) New research on monkeys shows that the tracking of social gestures may be hardwired into our brains. […]