Facebook: Degrees of Separation

Humans are (for the most part) social animals, we thrive when we congregate and poll our resources together. So how interconnected are we? Poets, screen writers and scientists have all posed the question but up until recently there’s never really been a good measure of the degrees of separation between any two people.

Six degrees of separation, a theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world.

The six degrees of separation theory was proposed by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized by a John Guare play written in 1990. Since then, a lot’s changed. The internet spread like wildfire and our lives have been heavily impacted by the nerd lead, technological revolution. With the birth of social media and specifically Facebook, you’d be correct in arguing that the degrees of separation have been knocked down more than a couple of pegs.

Facebook recently posted an article on their blog regarding a quick experiment that they did to test this theory. They looked at all 1.59 billion users on the site and calculated the degrees of separation for all of their users. Whilst exciting, this isn’t the first time they’ve run the experiment; back in 2011, they ran a similar experiment with ~700 million users. The only real difference is that this time, they shared the results.

My personal average degree of separation score is 3.18, putting me slightly closer in relation to any given person than most people. You can check yours by simply visiting Facebook’s blog post here (they also give some insight into how they dealt with the computational complexity, cool stuff).

Interestingly, in the five years between the two experiments we’ve grown closer by a separation score of .56.  Essentially, the world is far more closely connected than you might think.

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