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Degrees of Separation on Twitter

With seven billion people in the world, spread across cultures and continents, how many of those people can we ever expect to meet? Though, most of us are unlikely to cross paths with more than a small percentage of that seven billion, the possibility of meeting every other person on Earth may not be as far-fetched as one might think.

The term “degrees of separation” has been used throughout modern history to indicate the distance that human beings are from each other, not in terms of physical space, but in terms of society and relationships. According to studies, for the past few decades, the distance between any two people on earth has remained at an average of six degrees, meaning that, through a series of introductions by acquaintances, any two people on earth could come into contact within six meetings. So, though the world may be large in size, in terms of humanity, it truly is a small world after all.

With the social structure of the Internet growing, though, and the increase of online communication portals – social networks like Twitter and Facebook, webcam services like Skype, chat rooms and message boards – is it possible that the Internet is succeeding in making the world an even smaller place in terms of human relationships?

Research indicates the answer is yes

In analyzing the data from social networking sites, social media analytics company Sysomos determined that, unlike the real world, it doesn’t take six degrees to connect one user to every other user on a social network. On average, every user on Facebook is only five degrees away from every other user, so it would take a series of only five introductions from user to user to connect a person to the entire network.

The same five degrees of separation holds true for Twitter as well. Like on Facebook, connecting to the entire Twitter community requires one less introduction to connect to the entire world. On Twitter, though, the numbers get even more interesting. Roughly fifty percent of users are only four degrees away from everyone else on the network.

Introductions on Twitter and Facebook are simpler to make as well. Through something as simple as a retweet on Twitter or a “liked” Facebook update, a social network user gets introduced to a friend or follower’s entire social network, which increases the rate at which a user can connect with others on the network.

How might this change humanity?

The most unique thing about social networking, as opposed to be pre-Internet socialization, is that friendships and introductions are not hindered by physical borders. Social networks provide the opportunity to befriend people from all across the world without the need to travel and with limited expense. While it may just seem like a cool thing to be able to say you talk to someone on every continent, the ability to communicate on a broader scale has a more profound affect than that. Being in contact with people from other regions of the world has the potential to expand our cultural understanding and ability to relate to people who might otherwise seem foreign to us. Real world socialization generally introduces us to others like ourselves. Social networks introduce us to a much wider spectrum of people.

How might this change the world?

Throughout history, progress has often been slow. Groups intent on changing the world for the better have banded together in limited areas, where it was easier to spread information regarding protests and events. This made it difficult to grow a movement. There may be no greater boon to social causes than social networking. Historically, the more people who have joined a movement, the more quickly change has been made, and social networks have made it possible to spread information and build organizations at rates unheard of in past decades.

Imagine how fast the Civil Rights movement might have spread if Twitter and Facebook had been around in 1960s. More recent movements, such as the NOH8 campaign, would never have been able to get quick footing and attract such a wide number of celebrity and non-celebrity participants in dozens of cities, if not for the ability to get the information out to people so quickly.

The fact that we are a degree or two closer on Facebook and Twitter than in the real world means that information spreads more quickly online. This level of connection is a potential world-changer.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the seven billion people who inhabit the planet don’t inhabit social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter users make up a small percentage of the overall population. So, while these networks do bring some people of the world closer together, all of those people outside the networks are still six degrees away.

Author Bio:- Tyler is a tech and social media writer for SatelliteInternet.com home to high speed internet by satellite.

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