Does Facebook Bring Us Closer To Kevin Bacon?
If you read The Wisdom Daily, you are probably familiar with the phrase and/or (drinking) game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. And if not, no worries. It all revolves around the simple premise that no person is more than 6 removes from being connected to the actor. Facebook can now do way better than that, according to newly released data from the Goliath of social networks.
Forget 6 degrees of separation! If you are among the 1.6 billion people on Facebook, you are within 3.57 degrees of connection. Jokes about what counts as .57 of a personal connection aside, the network of friends created by Facebook connects us to more people than we thought possible even a few years ago. We thought six degrees was pretty connected, and now we are down to 3.57. It is definitely cool, but I have some serious questions about all of this.
I get that we are all more connected, but are we actually getting any closer? What happens when the rate of connectivity so radically outpaces the capacity for intimacy? While the new Facebook stat is impressive in some ways, it strikes me as troubling in at least as many others.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not some curmudgeon who mocks Facebook friendship, or the depth of connection which can be established through social media. In fact, the very distinction between “virtual” and “real” is often downright specious. I know that from personal experience.
I know how personally revealing some people will be in response to things I write for TWD and other digital platforms. They share stories of genuine joy and profound sorrow and real connections are made. I know first hand how I have been helped by the expressions of comfort that my Facebook friends have shared at times of personal loss. No, my questions are not driven by suspicion of the digital in general or Facebook in particular. They are driven by questions of bandwidth — by our own limitations to experience depth relative to the rapidly expanding possibility of breadth.
So before we – even those of us most clear about how real the virtual can be — immediately celebrate the shift from 6 degrees of separation to 3.57, let’s take a moment to recall that simply because something is good, does not necessarily mean that more of it is better.
The fact that we have closed the distance between people in this global network seems so cool, but until we know how, or even if, our capacity for relational grasp can keep some kind of pace with our increased technical reach, I remain skeptical. Impressed by the technical feat that Facebook has achieved, I remain skeptical about it deserving unquestioning celebration by anyone other than the company’s shareholders. For them however, it is definitely a moment to celebrate! For the rest of us, I guess we will see.
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