Tue November 22, 2011
'4.74 Degrees Of Kevin Bacon' Just Doesn't Sound As Good As 6
Who would want to play "4.74 Degrees of Kevin Bacon?"
Well, according to Facebook and researchers from the University of Millan, the average separation — or "number of hops" — between Facebook users is now 4.74. In other words, that's the average number of steps it would take to connect one Facebook user with another who uses that social media site. Your friend is a friend to someone else who's friends with someone else ... until somehow you're "connected" to someone halfway around the world.
Six, of course, has been the standard for degrees of separation between two people since a 1967 experiment by social psychologist Stanley Milgram. As The New York Times says, he had 296 volunteers "send a message by postcard, through friends and then friends of friends, to a specific person in a Boston suburb." It took six steps, on average, to get where it was going.
In the early '90s, a quote from Bacon that he had acted with just about everybody in Hollywood inspired the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" trivia game (and, to his credit, the SixDegrees.org charitable website that the actor founded).
But 4.74? How do we have fun with that? Suggestions are welcome.
(H/T to NPR's Maria Godoy.)