Six Degrees Of Separation? Facebook Beats That By Two

A new study claims that Facebook users are separated from each other by an average of just under four people. Interestingly, those that are in self-contained professions are more separated from each other than are Facebook users on the whole.

What's the Latest Development?

Using some very complex mathematics, researchers Eman Yasser Daraghmi and Shyan-Ming Yuan of Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University report that thanks to the explosive growth of Facebook, the number of degrees of separation between its users ranges between three and four. Specifically, the average number of acquaintances separating two users is 3.2, and that number actually rises to 3.9 when the user base is restricted "to people in unusual and largely self-contained professions, such as a Chinese-to-Korean translator." Daraghmi and Yuan ran their calculations on a database of 950 million people.

What's the Big Idea?

The "six degrees of separation" theory -- which suggests that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by a maximum of six people -- has been around since the 1960s. Despite doubts about the validity of the theory, the idea has been accepted and adapted into variations such as "The Oracle of (Kevin) Bacon." In a paper published in Computers in Human Behavior, Daraghmi and Yuan say simply, "The world is even smaller than you thought. Facebook shrunk the gap between us."

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