The phenomenal social trend that is Facebook has been continuing to grow, now boasting over 700 million active users. Recently, the company conducted some social research similar to the study that Stanley Milgram performed in the 1960s regarding his theory of the “six degrees of separation”. The new research on Facebook’s user and their connections to each other actually proved that, in many cases, it did not even take those 6 degrees for any one user to be connected to another, no matter what part of the world they are in. In fact, the average “distance” between users was actually only 4.7. And that is a decreasing value – in 2008, it was 5.28.
A trend that researchers have found accompanying this increasing number of users and decreasing distance is the speed at which information can spread. Matthew Ingram, the author of the article analyzing this new research, states “status updates and group memberships and photos and videos [Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci says] can create an “information cascade” that overcomes the typical information vacuum people often experience in such situations.” Tufecki studied the use of Facebook and said information cascades in the context of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and believes that, due to the small distance between users on Facebook, information cascades can happen more easily and in a way that can “actually influence the real world”. Particularly, Tufekci is interested in the use of information cascades via Facebook and how they affect revolutionary efforts. She states “before the internet and the social web came along, people had no way of knowing whether their own dissatisfaction or revolutionary fervor was shared my bothers, apart from a small group that they might know personally… and in order for a movement to break out and become a significant force, the members of that movement have to know that others are also willing to fight — and possibly die — for that cause. Social media, Tufekci says, makes it possible to see this happening in real time, and that helps create momentum.”