Six Degrees Of Separation? No Way – Only 4.7!

Kevin Bacon. Photo: Chad J. McNeeley (CC)

Photo: Chad J. McNeeley (CC)

We all know Facebook is changing the world’s social behavior, but what would Kevin Bacon think of this? From the New York Times:

The world is even smaller than you thought.

Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase “six degrees of separation” into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported on Monday that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74.

The original “six degrees” finding, published in 1967 by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, was drawn from 296 volunteers who were asked to send a message by postcard, through friends and then friends of friends, to a specific person in a Boston suburb.

The new research used a slightly bigger cohort: 721 million Facebook users, more than one-tenth of the world’s population. The findings were posted on Facebook’s site Monday night.

The experiment took one month. The researchers used a set of algorithms developed at the University of Milan to calculate the average distance between any two people by computing a vast number of sample paths among Facebook users. They found that the average number of links from one arbitrarily selected person to another was 4.74. In the United States, where more than half of people over 13 are on Facebook, it was just 4.37.

“When considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rain forest,” the company wrote on its blog, “a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.” The caveat there is “Facebook user” — like the Milgram study, the cohort was a self-selected group, in this case people with online access who use a particular Web site…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • Lightgood

    Let’s do lunch.

  • Lightgood

    Let’s do lunch.

    • Feel good

      lets do it

  • http://www.facebook.com/elpolloloco52 Josh Adkisson

    This seems to be more indicative of the looseness with which we use the word “friend” on Facebook than it does of any actual degrees of separation (other experiments, as the article notes, have used stricter definitions of “friend,” such as, oh, actually communicating with the person in question). As it happens, I have a few “friends” on facebook (some people have a lot of these) whom I have not actually met.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elpolloloco52 Josh Adkisson

    This seems to be more indicative of the looseness with which we use the word “friend” on Facebook than it does of any actual degrees of separation (other experiments, as the article notes, have used stricter definitions of “friend,” such as, oh, actually communicating with the person in question). As it happens, I have a few “friends” on facebook (some people have a lot of these) whom I have not actually met.

    • Anarchy Pony

      That’s pretty much what I thought. It’s not like most of these people ever actually met. Would they even classify as aquaintances?

  • Feel good

    lets do it

  • Anarchy Pony

    That’s pretty much what I thought. It’s not like most of these people ever actually met. Would they even classify as aquaintances?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Now, to open the huge English speaking Chinese factor not to have scewed stats! More English speaking Chinese on internet than Americans! Imagine that! All mankind may face a new and more true reality if we can recognize that blood transfusions, for example, are not racially or  nationality bound, nor is happiness, sorrow, death, disease, and in the end there are really no such people as “Entitled” people, and God does not favor only those of Jewish faith and Israelite blood lines, and certainly not the Caucasian Ashkenazim, nor the Han people. Even the British once made these sorts of claims, history has proven them folly. Now that we are but one large family, we must seek a common goal of peaceful survival and interdependence in sustainable , environmentally sound ways. Other wise we will self-destruct in war, greed, and selfish notions, and this rock we are on will have ended its worst or best infestation ever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Now, to open the huge English speaking Chinese factor not to have scewed stats! More English speaking Chinese on internet than Americans! Imagine that! All mankind may face a new and more true reality if we can recognize that blood transfusions, for example, are not racially or  nationality bound, nor is happiness, sorrow, death, disease, and in the end there are really no such people as “Entitled” people, and God does not favor only those of Jewish faith and Israelite blood lines, and certainly not the Caucasian Ashkenazim, nor the Han people. Even the British once made these sorts of claims, history has proven them folly. Now that we are but one large family, we must seek a common goal of peaceful survival and interdependence in sustainable , environmentally sound ways. Other wise we will self-destruct in war, greed, and selfish notions, and this rock we are on will have ended its worst or best infestation ever.