Exactly 12 years ago today, Mark Zuckerberg launched a small website called Thefacebook. Little did he know, the site would evolve into a global phenomenon that has forever changed our perception of social interaction (it also made him one of the richest people in the world).
In celebration of the occasion, Facebook has published a blog post in which it disputes the notion that everyone on the planet is connected by just six other people (you may have heard it as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). According to the social network, the figure in which someone is linked to anyone else is just 3.57 (and within the US, it's 3.46 degrees).
It's an interesting bit of math for sure but it's also a bit misleading.
For starters, Facebook's sample size of 1.59 billion people – the number of people that use the social network – is far smaller than the 7.4 billion people that currently inhabit our blue planet. It's also a curated sample of people with Internet access that want a Facebook account – in other words, a group of people that have things in common, thus increasing the likelihood that they'll be connected.
The spirit of the original concept is that everyone is connected to everyone else by no more than six acquaintances, not friends. The use of Facebook "friends" may suggest to some that people are separated by 3.57 actual friends. As we recently learned, the average Facebook user has roughly 150 friends (except almost all of them are really just acquaintances).
Facebook's post breaks down some of the complicated math used to reach its estimate. If you're a numbers person, I'd certainly recommend giving it a look.