Some people say that there are six degrees of separation. But that was before there was an internet, where everyone actually got to see the connections they had between people. Scientists at the University of Milan studied Facebook connections and discovered that in reality we are only 4.74 degrees of separation from any given person. I present as evidence of this fact the Facebook transaction that occurred above. I have scrubbed the names of all of the parties involved because I don’t want anyone to get freaked out that I’m re-re-re-blogging this picture.
1. The photograph in this status update is of a young woman holding a sign at a protest. It’s clear from the sign that the protest was about rape victimization, because it reads “This is what I was wearing. Tell me I asked for it. I DARE YOU.” A little bit of researching revealed that this photo was taken by photographer Francesca June at an anti-rape protest called Slutwalk NYC. This photo has made its way around and around the internet since October of Last Year and has appeared on several meme sites. So, protestor is person 0, and photographer in NYC is Person 1. Person 1 gets the photo online and it spreads to various social networking sites.
1.5 As the meme is spreading there are branching trees of people posting and reposting this image all over different sites. Someone, an unknown link in this chain posts it to Tumblr. I’m calling this person 1.5, but really there are an unknown number of links between the initial image going online and the step to getting it into the current Facebook chain.
2. The caption underneath the image on Facebook says “Found this image on Tumblr & had to share it.” So, person 2 randomly stumbled across this picture on Tumblr, and, not even knowing who this person was, agreed with this powerful sentiment, copied the picture and posted it to her personal Facebook wall. Person 2 is located in Toronto, and has over 800 Facebook friends.
3. Now, along comes person 3, my Facebook friend, who shares this photo from the Facebook chain, because he also thinks that this is a powerful statement and wants his readers to see it too. You can see in the surcap that it says “____ shared ____’s photo.” Person 3 is someone I follow who publishes news of note for alternative religions. So he’s kind of a semi-public figure, with a fairly large, but niche readership. Person 3 is in San Francisco and has over 3,000 Facebook friends.
4. Now, go down and look at the second person in the comments. This person, who I will call person 4, says “OMFG. THAT’S MY FRIEND ______!!!!!!!!! :O She never told me about this! I’m calling her as soon as I calm down right now. WTF!!???” Person 4 lives in South Carolina, and his number of Facebook friends is not publicly available, but definitely includes person 3, but not person 2 or 1, and yet he knows person 0 directly, because he has her phone number.
That is exactly how small the world is. What you post online may fly through the tiniest chain of people, people you don’t even know and may have absolutely no connection to you, and land right in the lap of a friend. It really makes you think about what you do in public, what goes online, and how closely held secrets can be revealed without your ever knowing about them. Honestly more than anything I hope that these two people, persons 4 and 0 will be okay.