Facebook users average 4.74 degrees of separation

Krystal Peak · November 22, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/21db

The old saying 'Six Degrees of Separation' was in a pre-Facebook world

It looks like the great American pasttime of playing 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' may need to be updated for the Facebook generation.

The data czars down at Facebook headquarters have just announced that the usually quoted phrase 'six degrees of separation' -- known as the average number of people it takes to link any two individuals -- is now closer to 4.74

The original phrase noting that six degrees was the average distance, in people, between any of us, came from a social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, and his 'small world' experiment in the 1960 -- then became a movie of low acclaim in 1993 with the not-yet-unaffordable-to-cast Will Smith.

Together, Facebook and the University of Milan reported Monday evening that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people had dropped by more than one person since the original finding more than 40 years ago.

With the aid and sophistication of modern computing and the, what some might call obsessive, need to add everyone you know into your Facebook or other social network profile, the connections were easier to map.


Now that Facebook has more than 721 million users, or more than one-tenth of the world’s population, connections were spotted and tracked in one month.

Through the 69 billion friendships logged on the site, the researchers found that when that when they picked two arbitrary people, the average distance between them was 4.74 people -- in the United States, that number dropped to 4.37 people.

“When considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rain forest,” the company wrote on its blog, “a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.”

This Facebook study, of course only looked at people on the site, which skews the results toward the people with access to Internet and computers (therefore only samples from 30% of the world population), but is showing the trend that distance is becoming less of a boundary in the Web-friendly landscape.

While the vast majority of most users' friends reside in the same country as they do (84%), Facebook has made it easier to draw a line from one person and hop across the globe to another. And perhaps as the Facebook early adopters age, the depth of connections will expand even further.

In the future, it is might be easier for social scientists to really examine the interconnectedness of the global population with greater ease because of social media. And with the world population adopting the Internet at more rapid rate year-over-year, soon the idea of using Facebook data in scientific studies might even be considered a valid pulse of the population.

At least this finding has given me a new game to play for the holidays '4.74 Degrees of Kevin Bacon' -- I still have to iron out the rules on that one though.


Image Source -- CNN.com

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