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Facebook shrank the world, literally

Some recent research using Facebook’s social graph has shown that the world’s largest social network has actually made the world about 20% smaller, socially.

Some highlights from the study.

  • There are more than 800 million active Facebook users, 50% of which log on daily.
  • The median Facebook user has about 100 friends.
  • If that number feels low, check out this 1991 study “Why your friends have more friends than you
  • Stanley Milgram performed a study in the 1960s showing an average of 5.2 “hops” between any two people on the planet, hence “six degrees of separation.”
  • While the worldwide population in 1960 was just over 3 billion, today it now 7 billion. Logic would tell you that we would have more hops between more than 2x the amount of people on the planet.
  • Faecbook partnered with a university in Milan, Italy to develop an algorithm which measured the seperation between any two Facebook users. (800+ million worldwide)
  • The distance between hops on Facebook in 2008 was 5 degrees of separation. But now it is 4. And within people in the same country? 3 degrees of separation.
  • This research has revealed that your Facebook social circle is at once both global and local. (84% of people’s friends reside in the same country.)
  • Source

What does this mean for you?

  • Mostly, it’s just really cool and has no real impact on your day-to-day life.
  • You’ve got to be more careful than ever about talking smack about someone online. Because one of your friends now has a friend who knows that person.
  • Your Facebook status is 3-4 shares away from reaching every person in your country. And 5-6 Facebook shares from any one person in the world.
  • As these online networks continue to interconnect our world, it also reveals a greater and greater desire within each of us to form more localized offline connections. (Support groups, farmers markets, small networks of personal friends, etc.)
  • In general, the larger a persons social network the less likely they are to keep their thoughts/opinions out of the public arena. I think we will see an increase in “private spaces” in social media to foster the open discussion we all so greatly enjoy.
  • Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book, “The World is Flat” was spot on. Fewer degrees of seperation gives more and more power to people with less and less means. This is contributing to a rise in the entrepreneur and socially activated class.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

9 replies on “Facebook shrank the world, literally”

I’m only 2 degrees from the late Pope John Paul II and I’m not even Catholic.  What does that mean?

(Just in case you’re wondering, I once had dinner with Congresswoman Hale Lindy Boggs who was the ambassador to the Vatican).

Yea, you’re right on the min Facebook age at 14.  But is that too young?  I couldn’t imagine having a facebook account at 14…

Adam, if you had a 14 year old, would you let him/her have a facebook account?  I don’t think I would let my 14-year old have one.

Adam, interesting post.  I thought this was a cool statement, “Your Facebook status is 3-4 shares away from reaching every person in your country. And 5-6 Facebook shares from any one person in the world”  

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