back to article Facebook 'shrinks' six degrees of separation theory

Researchers at Facebook and the University of Milan reckon that the degrees of separation between any two people in the world have been reduced to 4.7 from social psychologist Stanley Milgram's "small world experiment" of six back in the '60s. The study, which measured how many friends people have on Facebook, found that the …


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  1. Ian Yates

    I can't help but notice...

    but they seem to have completely overlooked the 90% of the population that /isn't/ on fb.

    And while the majority of these are likely to be direct friends/family of people that are, I have a feeling that there's a fair portion of a small landmass known as Africa that will skew their result somewhat.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      Black Helicopters

      Never mind that ...

      There is a child born in Africa every 15 seconds.

      We have to find that woman and stop her.

  2. Norm DePlume


    If I join Facebook and have no friends: that's an infinite number of hops. I contend that there must be a least one person on Facebook at any one time with no friends. People on Facebook, therefore, are, on average, an infinite number of hops away from everyone else.

    Or do you have to name friends to get an account?

    1. craigj

      "it "examined" all 721 million active Facebook users"

      One would assume an account has at least one connection to be defined as "active" by this experiment.

  3. Ru

    Oh really.

    It isn't like facebook has any real worthwhile definition of 'friend', which can easily be 'random person from facebook to whom I made a friend request'. I had a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the reception staff at the last hotel I stayed at.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      The old "six degrees of seperation" wasn't about meaningful relationships you know. Just connections.

  4. BoxedSet

    Crumbs good old Farcebook has shrunk the degrees of separation alright.... hands up all those with more friends they have never met than real people that visit them?

    What a steaming pile of crap..........

  5. teebie

    They assume every facebook user is a person

    Many people will have a mutual 'friend' that is a band, business, or celebrity they are a fan of.

  6. Grubby

    I tend to agree with the survey

    Social networks were orginally intended as an extension of existing communication platforms and have evolved into their own 'worlds' (for want of a better phrase) as they are actually changing how and what people communicate about but that is more to do with the fact that people have been given the means to do it rather than the old one to one relationships, or at best one to many via tv etc, you now have the many to many relationships.

    If there was a road that leading from every city in the world to every other city in the world people would have the means to go direct to the place they want to get to without having to go anywhere else first.

  7. Gio Ciampa

    Mangling the numbers???

    As I understood it - the number of hops was the same as the degree of separation.

    Yet the article includes the statements "five degrees (six hops)" and "four degrees (five hops)"

    Which would mean that Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of -1, given he has to make zero hops to get to himself...

  8. Wibble

    Be my friend...

    Be my friend, my special friend, be my friend, like me, ooh please be my friend

    For goodness sake, just grow up

    The one good thing about El Reg is you can UnLike someone. What is it with the 'Mercans where they only have a 'like'.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      I've observed at my sons school that almost all of the "please be my friend" and "I'm not your friend" behaviour is restricted to girls. While talking to the parents reveals that almost all the parents who use Facebook are mothers (ahem).

      Indeed I recently heard one mother talking to another about what she and her "best friend" did at the weekend. This is typical behaviour among young girls whereby they are (not so) subtly trying to tell somebody where they come in the social pecking order. It implies that "while you are my friend because I'm talking to you, you are not my best friend".

      Like you say these people need to grow up.

  9. regorama

    average? or maximum?

    six degrees was a maximum wasn't it?

    1. Gio Ciampa

      It's the average separation

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        I was taught that the six degrees was the maximum number of hops from one person to another. Of course the trick was in finding the connections.

  10. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    ""We observed that while the entire world is only a few degrees away, a user’s friends are most likely to be of a similar age and come from the same country," said Facebook."

    Wow they actually figured that out all on their own. Those Facebook bods must be a lot cleverer than I thought.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I did wonder why that when facebook tells you mutual friends, they don't give you mutual friends of friends so you can work back a path.

    I guess because they'd have to show you millions of people!

    Still... You could only select from very active friends and show something fun.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why doesn't anyone read

    Six Degrees of Separation: An Urban Myth? by Judith Klienfield? (

    There never were only six degrees of separation. It is more than six

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    This only works until you try to use it.

    So what can the average FB-er do with this information? Not a lot, I would suggest.

    These people we only know through "friending" aren't real friends. They never call, they never pop round to see you if you're ill, they never buy you a beer, and would drop you like a hot lump of plutonium if you were ever foolish enough to ask them to inconvenience themselves on your behalf - as you or I would if they asked. (And if they do agree to, that's an even better reason to make sure they never, ever find out where you live.)

    As it is, most of these degrees of connectedness go through a proportionally speaking, absolutely tiny number of hyper-connected individuals. People (if they are in fact people) who don't know you exist, apart from being a number among their thousands of followers. So the chances of sending them a message along the lines of "since we've been friends now for 6 months, how about a ....." and getting a meaningful reply are infinitesimally small, to the point of making the whole thing pointless.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Pete. Pete. Pete ... back up

      Buying me a beer third ?

      I'm grappling with a priorities problem here.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just goes to show

    that morons, like cat poo & cat litter are clumpy and tend to stick together.

  15. tony trolle


    I have over 400 people I "Friend'ed" for mafia wars.

    One later turned out to be from the same town as my housekeeper and they knew each other.

    so is that 2 degrees or just a coincidence.

    It is this stuff on FB with games that makes the report worthless.

  16. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    I will admit to having a FB account, only however because somebody sent me a link to some photographs that I could only view if I had an account and I was a "friend" of the poster. I deleted the account shortly afterwards, but in the very short time the account was active I received three friend requests, two of which were from people I'd never even heard of.

    I don't know what these people were up to. Maybe they were just searching for somebody with the same name as me. Maybe they were scammers. Maybe they sent me a friend request simply because I was on the friends list of one of their friends. But the point is that this really makes a mockery of this study. Plenty of people will accept friend requests from people they don't know. In Facebook's study this would count as a hop (less than one degree of seperation the way they count it) even though it is totally bogus.

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