Change by default: Exploring the effects of a sudden influx of newcomers on the discourse of r/TwoXChromosomes
Sudden influxes of new contributors to online communities can cause apprehension and resentment among existing members, potentially leading to the displacement of existing members by newcomers. We analyze the impact of a sudden influx of new contributors to r/TwoXChromosomes, an online community in which the experiences and perspectives of female-identified individuals are discussed. Though we find evidence of a small displacement effect, other factors, such as the passage of time and the 2016 U.S. presidential election, have far larger impacts on the retention of existing contributors. We also find that after the influx, discussion topics shifted temporarily toward general statements about women and men, followed by a lasting shift away from appearance-related topics toward topics relating to motherhood. In sum, the evidence suggests that in this particular case, fears of displacement by a sudden influx of newcomers are exaggerated, and that technology designers, users, and online community managers should consider the impact of a wider variety of factors when considering how to maintain cohesive online communities.