The phrase “six degrees of separation” became synonymous with social media back when Friendster was cool, but now it turns out that people are actually more closely connected on Facebook.
Make that 4.74 degrees of separation, according to Facebook’s data team. That’s the average number of people separating any two individuals on the social network.
The data team examined how many friends users have and determined that as the total number of Facebook users has risen, the average number of degrees of separation has gone down.
The fact that users’ friends are likely to be of similar ages and mostly from the same countries also factored into the research.
Other findings from the Facebook data Tteam’s study of some 721 million active Facebook users with about 69 billion friendships:
- The median number of friends is 100;
- Only 10 percent of Facebook users had fewer than 10 friends;
- 20 percent of Facebook users had fewer than 25 friends;
- 50 percent had more than 100 friends.
- 92 percent of people on Facebook are connected to everyone else by four degrees of separation.
Back in 2008, everyone on Facebook was connected by an average of 5.28 degrees of separation, so that means people on the site have come closer by .54 percentage points.
The Facebook data team concluded:
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. When we limit our analysis to a single country — be it the United States, Sweden, Italy, or any other — we find that the world gets even smaller, and most pairs of people are only separated by three degrees.
It is important to note that while Milgram was motivated by the same question (how many individuals separate any two people), these numbers are not directly comparable; his subjects only had limited knowledge of the social network, while we have a nearly complete representation of the entire thing. Our measurements essentially describe the shortest possible routes that his subjects could have found.