Facebook shaves a couple off the six degrees of separation
Facebook has been on a mission to take out previous well known concepts: friendship, privacy, personality, and many more. But what about the six degrees of separation? Well that's incorrect: it's now 4.74 across the globe, meaning we're becoming more a closely connected world.
In a study conducted by the Facebook Data Team, Stanley Milgram's 'small world' experiment is revisited in a social networking sense. Granted, this isn't on a global scale, and shouldn't be taken as so; but as it counts for 721 million active users, with 69 billion friendships, totalling to 10% of the world population, we're willing to listen. The aforementioned experiment tested the idea that people were separated by merely a small number of intermediary connections (six degrees of separation if you will), and concluded that we were apart by about 5.2 (4 hops). I know this is a very broad description of this; but it sets a general scene.
The study began by recording the cumulative degree distribution to determine the average number of Facebook friends (which has gone up to 190, bit more than that magic number '130' people talk about), and then determining the hop distance between pairs of people. The results are pretty eye-opening.
While 99.6% of all pairs of users are connected by paths with 5 degrees (6 hops), 92% are connected by only four degrees (5 hops). And as Facebook has grown over the years, representing an ever larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected. The average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops, while now it is 4.74.
Thus, when considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rainforest, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.
Now there are two ways to look at this. Recent social trends mean the vast multi-national nature the global population is being combined with the communication of a dense local sector to make the whole world ever-increasingly connected. Either that, or the world is narrowing and our definition of a friend is quickly becoming redundant.