You’ve heard the adage about human connectivity — “six-degrees of separation.” First coined in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy, the term claims that everyone is only six people away from knowing everyone else. But if you’re a Facebook user, that gap has narrowed.
Last week, as a part of its company’s 12th anniversary, Facebook released a study on the connectivity of its users. The last time the company posted such numbers was back in 2011, but the company saw its user base almost doubled – going from 721 million to 1.59 billion people, and the number continues to grow.
According to a blog post from the social network:
Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people. The average distance we observe is 4.57, corresponding to 3.57 intermediaries or “degrees of separation.” Within the US, people are connected to each other by an average of 3.46 degrees.
What it shows is that people who are connected on Facebook are more interconnected. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stands at 3.17 degrees of separation while Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stands at 2.92. You can even check out your score here.
While the statistic may sound like the world is becoming even more connected, you have to take this statistic with a grain of salt. As of July of last year, the world’s population stands at 7.3 billion, which leaves approximately 5.71 billion out of the count.
During an event last Monday, Zuckerberg made some bold claims to shore up the gap by connecting 5 billion people by 2030.
“We want to finish connecting everyone, we’re going to do it in partnership with governments and different companies all over the world,” Zuckerberg said, according to USA Today. “It’s solar-powered, and it’ll just fly around a city and beam down internet access,” Zuckerberg said while standing under the drone named Aquila. “It’s, like, pretty crazy, right?”
By the time 2030 rolls around, the world’s population is expected to hit 8.5 billion. As a result, Facebook would have to connect 60% of the people on earth. Zuckerberg has a few challenges, which includes the lack of access to large portions of the developing world. In an attempt to generate more access to the internet, the company launched Internet.org, which provides free access through unmanned, solar-powered drones to unconnected areas in 30 countries.
But there’s a catch: Users of the “free” internet can only access content determined by Internet.org and its telecom partners. Proponents of the initiative argue that Internet.org violates net neutrality due to the restrictive nature of the service.
While users of Internet.org have the option of upgrading to full access to the web, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recently banned Free Basics, an app that gives free, but restrictive access to data over mobile devices. The Indian agency stated that the restrictive nature of the service would set up false expectations of a newcomer’s experience of the internet.
Despite the setbacks, Zuckerberg remains steadfast to his mission.
“Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet,” he wrote. “We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities.”
While Facebook continues to narrow the degrees of separation of its users in the virtual world, the company has a long ways to go in translating that connectivity in the real world.