The big myth of social networking

A little while ago, someone tweeted his awe of the fact that over 600 million people are connected to each other on the one platform: Facebook.

The friendship connections on Facebook visualised over a map of the world.

This got me thinking, are all these people really “connected”…?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the Six Degrees of Separation principle. It holds that on average, anyone is only 6 personal relationships away from anyone else. Whether Facebook adds anything to the equation is questionable.

Take Madonna for example.

Madonna has a Facebook page – well, I think it’s her. There’s a problem already. For the sake of this argument, let’s accept it’s her.

I can write a message on her wall and hope she replies, but that’s not really the point. I could also mail her a letter or press the buzzer at her Hollywood mansion.

The point is connectedness. For the theory to hold up, I must be only 6 Facebook users away from the Material Girl, and thereby be able to engineer a personal introduction.

Maybe in theory I can, but while I know who I’m connected to, I don’t really know who they’re connected to, let alone who they are connected to. And that’s only a few degrees in.

Sure, I could ask “Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows Madonna?”, but that would be a tad silly. No one could possibly know.

Alternatively, I could say “I’m trying to meet Madonna – can you arrange an introduction? Pass it on…”

Again in theory, my message would reach someone who could indeed arrange an introduction, but the probability of that happening is ridiculously low. Human nature dictates that a rapidly diminishing number of people will pass it on, let alone to the extent required to get a hit.

So while 600 million people are technologically connected on Facebook, practically they aren’t because everyone’s effective network only stretches so far.

The best we can do is stretch it as far as possible.

6 thoughts on “The big myth of social networking

  1. Unless I am mistaken, my current concept of Linkedin is that it does that work for you. You have your contacts, and then they have theirs, and so on and so forth, throughout Linkedin. When you need to know what your connection is to a certain person in your field for instance, a hiring manager, Linkedin gives you the heads up on your grid connection, if one exists. Which is better than throwing out a fly ball “does anyone know anyone, who might know so and so”………

    In this way the social networking myth starts to become social networking reality.

  2. Are you sure, Genie? It appears to me LinkedIn uses the black box “so-and-so’s connections” without identifying them.

  3. No I don’t think that 600 million people are connected to each other but we should not dismiss Facebook altogther. Whether it is stories about Facebook connecting protesters in Tunisia and Egypt or the disaster of Who is coming to Katie’s party, Facebook has the potential for individual persons to reach out to a lot more people of a like mind than the traditional ways of doing this

  4. All these Social Networking opportunities brought people around the world together, borderless, in real time, sometimes with anonymity. All these features among others, make social networking so popular, so nge to their users’ preferences, information,

  5. Hey all, I am trying to battle this issue by creating an app that allows us to use social media to reconnect. Hopefully if we use tools like this, we can reverse the negative effects by using the social media crutch to turn things around.

    I made an app that only shows what is happening around you in hopes to move away from focusing on everyone else, everywhere else. It’s not necessarily meant to reconnect you with your social-media obsessed friends, but to connect you with new friends who some wouldn’t necessarily talk to because of the social media wall put between two strangers.

    I hope you don’t mind my little “promotion,” but I am trying to challenge these social issues that all of us (including me) have found annoying. I would love to hear what anyone thinks! Check out the website for more information (, or email me at

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