Get ready to play the Kevin Bacon game.
The notion that one person can be connected to any other in just six steps, commonly known as six degrees of separation, has been around since social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s “ small world experiment” in the 1960s.
But a new study of Facebook users conducted by the company and the University of Milan has found that every one of the social network’s 721 million active users can be linked to any other in just 4.74 steps. That’s worldwide. When you look at a single country, the analysis found people are only separated by three degrees. And the world – the Facebook world – is getting smaller.
“We found that the degrees of separation between any two Facebook users is smaller than the commonly cited six degrees, and has been shrinking over the past three years as Facebook has grown,” the Facebook Data Team said on Tuesday in a blog post.
The analysis found that 99.6 per cent of all pairs of users are connected by paths with five degrees. That means anyone on Facebook is just five degrees away from any other person on Earth who’s a member of the site. When you look at just a single country, users are separated by only three degrees.
And, as the blog post noted, “As Facebook has grown over the years, representing an even larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected. The average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops, while it is now 4.74.”
If you’re thinking, ‘Wait, I’m on Facebook and I don’t feel very connected to strangers on the other side of the planet’ it’s because you’re not – not really.
“We observed that while the entire world is only a few degrees away, a user’s friends are most likely to be of similar age and come from the same country.”
How often are you surprised by the connections you find through Facebook?