Facebook Investigates The "Six Degrees Of Separation" Theory & Comes Up With Some Surprising Results


The idea has been around for a long time that everyone in the world is separated by no more than six "degrees," or interpersonal relationships, but of course the question is, how would you prove such a thing? Well, it seems like Facebook is as good a means as any to try, which is why researchers at Facebook decided to test the degrees of separation theory. Surprisingly, they've found that most people are in fact separated by much fewer than six degrees. It seems it's a small world after all.

Although there are only about 1.5 billion monthly Facebook users compared to over 7 billion people on Earth, and although people with Facebook accounts probably aren't a representative sample of humanity as a whole, the site is still probably your best bet if you want to try to figure out how people are connected on a grand scale. Not only is the sample size huge, but people are often Facebook friends with not only close friends but also acquaintances and colleagues and any number of other relationships covered under the term "degrees of separation."

So in honor of Friends Day, which occurred on Feb. 4, Facebook decided to run the numbers. And it turns out that, on average, there are only 3.57 degrees of separation between any two Facebook users.

Like I said, it's a small world.

Of course, this isn't definitive proof that every person on Earth is connected by no more than six degrees of separation. However, it does say a lot about how interconnected we are as a planet.

Now, it's possible these degree of separation average numbers are a little low, given that Facebook's demographics tend to skew towards Western countries, meaning any two random Facebook users are more likely to be more closely connected than two people selected at random from the population as a whole. But on the other hand, it seems that, counterintuitively, a large sample size doesn't make us less connected to each other, either.

Interestingly, in 2011, Facebook researchers ran a similar test on the connectedness of their users. Back then, when they were looking at around 700 million Facebook users, researchers found that there were an average of 3.74 degrees of separations between people. Today, with more than twice to number of users, that number is down to 3.57 As we grow more numerous, we also grow more interconnected.

So that's at least one sort of comforting thought, given the current population growth. Now if only this grand interconnectedness would lead us to stop depleting our resources.

So what is your average degree of separation? Well, you can find out on Facebook here.

Image: Giphy