Six Degrees of Separation Between Us? Facebook Says It’s Only 3.5

  • Tuesday, March 08 2016 @ 07:00 am
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Most of us have heard the term “six degrees of separation,” made famous first by the sociology study in the 1960’s, and later in the nineties through references to Kevin Bacon’s prolific acting career. The theory was born: we are all only “six degrees of separation” from him, or anyone else, on the planet.

Now, Facebook is concluding we could be even more connected to each other – by as little as 3.5 degrees.

What this means is that that when you are connected to all the people you know, and they are connected to all the people they know, and so on, you are inevitably linked – through your own network of friends, and friends of friends - to such notable figures as the President of the United States, a Kardashian, football star Tom Brady, or Senator Marco Rubio. That’s right, we’re all only six people removed from everyone else on the planet.

Recently, the numbers were studied again – this time by Facebook, using its own platform. The company found that despite the fact that over the last twenty years or so the population of the planet has increased – we are now closer to each other than ever before. We are all, on average, only three and a half degrees of separation from anyone else on the planet, thanks in large part to the role social media plays in our lives.

Think of it this way: If you have 100 friends, and each of your friends has 100 friends, that's already 10,000 friends of friends to whom you are connected.

In the United States, people are even more closely connected to each other – by an average of 3.46 degrees. At least among those who have Facebook accounts, which totals about 1.59 billion according to Facebook. And Pew Research Center’s report last year shows that about 72% of US adults are active online.

More people are signing up for the Facebook platform every day, which means the numbers are dynamic and makes the connections even closer. For instance, in 2011, researchers at Cornell, the Università degli Studi di Milano, and Facebook analyzed the average across 721 million people using the site then, and found that the degree of connection between people was 3.74. Now, with twice as many people using Facebook, we've grown more interconnected, thus shortening the distance between any two people in the world.

One problem with Facebook’s figures is that in real life, the majority of people only consider a portion of their Facebook friends as “real” friends. The typical Facebook user has 155 friends, but only describes 50 of them as friends in real life, according to a 2014 study from the Pew Research Center. Thirty-five percent of people have Facebook friends they've never met in person.

What does this mean? For one, social media and the Internet have drawn us all closer to each other – in a way. Maybe we aren’t any closer to each other in terms of real life interactions, but in a virtual world, we find connection.

Found if this social network makes a good dating service substitute, read our Facebook review.