Monday, March 31, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

I'm not fond of Facebook. I think it's a mess, to be quite honest, and it doesn't seem that most people use it for anything more than sending invitations to any number of silly applications that force you to invite 12 more people to be able to do anything with it and taking a bajillion quizzes that tell you essentially nothing. However, I'm there nonetheless, and last night, I discovered an interesting feature.

Facebook informed me that it had a list of people that I might know and wish to add as friends. It listed 30 people. Strangely enough, I really DID know about 25 of them, and I have no idea how Facebook figured out that I knew them. Most of them were on the "friends list" of people who are on my "friends list", but even so, there are hundreds of people on the friends lists of my friends, most of whom I don't know. How did Facebook guess with such a high accuracy which ones I did?

Well, you can't see the profiles of people until you add them to your friends list, but you can see who is on THEIR friends list, and by doing exactly that with some of these people that turned up on my "People you might know" list, I was fascinated to discover all the connections that I never knew existed.

For example, I clicked on the name of a girl that I knew from my old church. (How Facebook knew I knew her has me floored. We don't live in the same city. We didn't attend the same schools. I have nothing about the church on my facebook account to indicate we knew each other from there. She is not even on the friends list of any of my friends. How in this world did Facebook know I knew her? Kind of eerie.) So I look at HER friends list, and I see a little girl that I used to watch when she was in kindergarten, of course not a little girl anymore. I look at her list and find the son of a missionary I knew as a child. I look at his list and find the little brother of a friend I had in junior high. On his list I find... my cousin that I didn't even know was on Facebook. Who knew! On his list, I find a 2nd cousin... on my OTHER side of the family that THIS cousin is not related to. I link from there to another 2nd cousin, and what do you know, her list contains the name of a little boy I babysat one summer when I was in college, as well as one of my sister's best friends. The connections go on and on, no matter whose name I click on, I find SOMEONE on their friends list that I also know, and in most cases, had no idea that those two people knew each other because I do not know them from the same place.

It really makes you realize what a small world it is. If you have a Facebook account, I encourage you to try this experiment for yourself. It's a lot of fun to see who knows whom, and you can find people you haven't even thought about in 20 years. :o)

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