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Facebook reveals how many degrees separate you from everyone else
The world of Facebook is smaller than you think.
It’s an old adage that everyone is separated by everyone else by a mere six degrees. On Facebook, that number is considerably less.
The social network ran a statistical analysis of everyone on the platform using anonymized data, and found that, on average, each person in the Facebook world with a population of 1.59 billion people is connected to everyone else by 3.57 degrees of separation. In the U.S., people are connected by an average of just 3.46 degrees of separation.
Facebook ran the study to coincide with “Friend’s Day,” the moniker Facebook made up to celebrate its birthday.
The company shared its findings in a blog posted by the data science team. Facebook took a look at all your friends, and your friends-of-friends, and your friends-of-friends-of-friends, and so on, to calculate how many people are in between you and a total stranger on the other side of the world.
Researchers used the Flajolet-Martin algorithm that determines the number of individual elements in one stream of information. A more comprehensive explanation of the math is available in the blog post.
You can find out just how connected you are to everyone else in the world by checking out the post.
Facebook notes that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is connected to Facebook strangers by 3.17 degrees. And Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has 2.92 degrees of separation.
It’s an interesting peek into how closely people are connected on the social network that wants to “connect the world.” In 2011, the company ran a similar study, and the average was 3.74 degrees of separation. Five years later, that number has shrunk, while the Facebook population has grown.
The world of Facebook is considerably smaller than the world we live in, however, with seven billion people on Earth. So while online you might be connected to someone in Estonia by a mere three degrees, that number would likely be higher if we analyzed only physical connections.
Facebook’s study does make you think about the power of human connections and the space we take up as individuals. If there are three and a half people between me and a stranger on the opposite side of the planet, maybe the world isn’t so big after all.
Illustration via Max Fleishman
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.