Six degrees of separation no more?
As the world has gotten bigger and our global population has hit the 7 billion milestone, it has also gotten smaller thanks to technology, namely Facebook. In an extensive study, the giant social network says that because of them, people are no longer connected by six degrees of separation (you remember the Kevin Bacon game) wherein everyone on the planet is connected by no more than six intermediate connections in a chain (my boss’ friend’s sister’s cousin’s neighbor’s dad is the President, for example).
The data team at Facebook says that as they approach 800 million Facebook users, the world is now 4.74 people away from each other, thus, the world has dropped a degree of separation as it has gotten more connected online.
The idea of six degrees of separation was originally put to the test in the 1960s by social psychologist Stanley Milgram who asked 296 volunteers to get a message to a random individual living near Boston. They were asked to send the message to a friend who was more likely than they to know the target person. It took an average of 5.2 people in the chain to get the letter to the target, so because it was over five, the world became known as six degrees apart from any other person on the globe.
Facebook’s 721 million active users is a bigger sample group, obviously, so this data is being taken seriously, especially since the complex algorithms developed for the study were done in conjunction with the Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Università degli Studi di Milano, and although there have been small discrepancies noted between the University’s work and Facebook’s work, we’re now much closer together as a global society than we were in many of our lifetimes.
Charts from the degrees of separation study