The Hard Facts: You’re Closer Than You Think

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“The world’s largest social network teamed up with researchers at Università degli Studi di Milano to study the social graph. Together, they analyzed 721 million active Facebook users and those users’ 69 billion relationships, and found that any two people on Facebook are, on average, separated by no more than 4.74 connections. ” (“Why You’re Only 4 Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon–On Facebook” ; 11/22/2011)

So long, six degrees. This study says that, at least on Facebook, “99.6% of all pairs of users are connected by paths with 5 degrees … 92% are connected by only four degrees.” And as the site continues to grow (how can it even grow anymore? who, other than Matt, is still holding out? If that’s you, I say, stay strong! Unless we’ve met and I want to friend you), researchers say the separation will only get smaller. The distance between you and your ex-husband’s mailman’s dog’s previous owner’s cousin’s 3rd grade teacher will get more direct.

One of my favorite things to do on Facebook (because, really, there’s not much to do other than peruse the newsfeed and stalk pictures) is see what mutual friends I have with a new contact. There’s always someone who surprises me. Like, why is my sorta-friend from college connected to my third cousin and the girl who used to take dance class with me?

The mutual friend issue is also a really good in with new friends to whom you want to reach out. You’ve been meaning to email, but you feel awkward saying “Just writing to say hi. And because I like you. Let’s be friends?” So instead, say “I just saw that you are friends with Person X on Facebook! How do you guys know each other? She and I went to nursery school together. So funny.” That will kick off an email chain which should end with you saying “Want to grab coffee?”

Fast forward to you and your PBFF as just BFF. All thanks to Facebook and that girl from nursery school.

Other factoids from the study:

– “For two Facebook users in closer proximity, the distance is even shorter: Most pairs of folks in the same country are separated by just three degrees.”

– The average Facebook member has 190 friends (up from 130 in 2010)

– Only 10 percent of users have less than 10 friends.

Do you love the “mutual friend” service from Facebook? Is this is a good in with a new potential pal? Are you surprised that we’re all just getting closer and more connected?

MWF Seeking BFF, the book, comes out in less than two weeks! There’s nothing better than word of mouth to help a book succeed. Won’t you share the news with your own BFFs and potential BFFs? They can:
pre-order the book
watch the video trailer

read an excerpt
see what others are saying

Thank you!


Filed under The Search

3 responses to “The Hard Facts: You’re Closer Than You Think

  1. maryl

    When Facebook first started in 2004, there was a feature that showed you how you were connected to someone, up to 4 connections. (Person X is friends with person B who is friends with person C is who is friends with you). I loved it, but alass, I guess Facebook grew to big to continue that feature.

  2. I am 3 degrees away from Ryan Gosling! Probably not by FB standards, though.

    I tried to play a game once where you picked a random person in a FB group to see if you could link them back to you. It’s difficult, though, and involved a lot of random clicking on random friends of friends of friends of theirs. I can’t remember if I ever made it work.

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