How connected are you to the rest of the world?
The typical answer, made famous by cultural icons like John Guare, is six degrees: "I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice. Fill in the names."
But a new Facebook analysis finds we're even more connected than that.
In the analysis, Facebook found that people on the social network are connected not by six degrees, but by 3.57.
To put it another way, there's a good chance that your friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook knows Beyoncé. Not bad.
Facebook's analysis also found that we seem to be getting more interconnected as the social network grows:
Our collective "degrees of separation" have shrunk over the past five years. In 2011, researchers at Cornell, the Università degli Studi di Milano, and Facebook computed the average across the 721 million people using the site then, and found that it was 3.74 [4,5]. Now, with twice as many people using the site, we've grown more interconnected, thus shortening the distance between any two people in the world.
One caveat to the analysis: This only applies to Facebook, so real-life results could vary. Many people have different networking habits on the website than they do in the real world — for example, they might be more willing to add a total stranger as a friend. So it's possible that Facebook is making people look more interconnected than they are off the social network.
Still, if you're on Facebook, you're surprisingly close to the rest of the world, and that interconnectedness is apparently growing stronger as the social network expands.
Further reading: Vox's Libby Nelson takes a look at the research on degrees of separation here.