By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
I’m no Kevin Bacon, but I just found a batch of research that says the degrees of separation between me and the rest of the world are decreasing. And it’s no surprise that social media has a lot to do with it.
Take Facebook, for instance: Mark Zuckerberg and co. say that I’m only 3.74 degrees away from any other user on the social network. That’s less than 4 connections separating me from President Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, or even you. Small world, huh?
And the numbers get even more mind-blowing the more you think about them: If you have 100 Facebook friends, you have 10,000 friends of friends. At five degrees of separation, that means 10 billion hypothetical people are connected to you somehow. 10 billion! More than the world’s population! All these fun, hypothetical numbers beg the question: where does all this virtual connectedness get us?
A lot of people talk about how social media has stunted our human interaction skills. And judging by the number of people I see sitting together in disengaged silence, each surfing away on their own smartphone, that’s clearly the case. I can’t believe how infrequently I get a phone call or — gasp! — an in-person visit from people I’m friends with on Facebook. Social media has replaced old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.
But as with every other complex issue in this crazy world of ours, social media has a silver lining. For every story I hear about Facebook isolating us, I hear another one about this amazing tool bringing together lost family members, long-lost loves or other kindred spirits. I’ve personally found a lost love through Facebook, and I know that I never would have gotten back into contact with this light in my life without social media.
And then there’s the “networking” aspect to social networks. Facebook has given us an easy, central way to gather behind causes we believe in. The Haiti Earthquake relief efforts, Hurricane Sandy aid campaign and Occupy Wall Street movement would have happened without social media, but would they have generated such a huge amount of support, monetary or otherwise? Those teensie-weensie 3.74 degrees of separation have helped us spawn revolutions and raise millions within minutes. And they’ve also helped us connect with meaningful people who we simply can’t get up and visit in-person.
It’s a small world, after all. And sometimes, social media is a great way to keep us dreaming big.