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Four Degrees of Separation

New York TimesAccording to The New York Times, a new study released this week by Facebook indicates that the average number of acquaintances (“friends”) on Facebook separating any two people around the world is 4.74. “In the United States, where more than half of people over 13 are on Facebook, it (is) just 4.37.”

The article, which interviews a number of experts who offer insights on how to best interpret the findings, proclaims that the “research underscores the growing power of the emerging science of social networks, in which scientists study the ways people interact by crunching gigantic sets of Internet data.”

Indeed, for a world that is becoming increasingly connected via the Internet, this study suggests how powerful social networking can be. Want to make a connection with that business owner? Chances are you know someone who knows her. Want to connect with that company three states away? You might just be two people away from making a meaningful contact.

But then again, how meaningful? As Dr. Jon Kleinberg, a computer science professor at Cornell, told The Times, “We are close, in a sense, to people who don’t necessarily like us, sympathize with us or have anything in common with us. It’s the weak ties that make the world small.”

And maybe that’s the point. Weak or strong. Meaningful or minor. A connection is a connection – make of it what you will. Perhaps that’s the power behind social media in 2012…


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