Thursday, November 24, 2011

4.74 Degrees of separation

News item:

Ever heard of the phrase six degrees of separation? The theory refers to the idea that every person is only six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth.  In 1967, psychologist Stanley Milgram published his findings on 'six degrees' after conducting an experiment where 296 volunteers were asked to send a message via postcard through friends, and then friends of friends to a specific person in Boston. Well Facebook is making the degree of separation even smaller.  The social media site has taken the concept and reduced it to just 4.74 degrees of separation.  Over a one month period, researchers at Facebook and The University of Milan used algorithms that measured the connections between 721 of its users.  According to a New York Times article, the algorithms 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. Therefore, the results confirmed that given any other person on Earth, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend. Of course, this depends on your definition of the word 'friend.' Some people say these connections between other people simply support the idea that Facebook's definition of 'friendship' is not the same as it is in the real world. At any rate, with the help of Facebook and social media in general, it has becom a lot easier to reach people and make connections.  Looks like the world just got a little bit smaller.LINK

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