Paul Butler (a Facebook Engineer) put together a stunningly visual social media map connecting pairs of friends on Facebook from their respective locations across the globe. What came out was a beautifully rendered map of the world with countries in all five continents aglow. Streams of fluorescent blue lines overlap each other across this representation of people and their social links. Indeed what it has illustrated is that we in the age of interconnectivity have made the world much smaller with human ties spanning across oceans.
Butler used the data of 500 million people on Facebook. He plotted a point for each user at his or her registered location and drew lines between the user and his or her friends. The superior number of friendships within localities reflects more lines overlapping each other, forming a saturated image. To Butler’s surprise, his rendering showed geographic images of countries and territories with clear contours.
The brightest sections on the social media map are those of America, Europe and Asia. There is a heavy concentration of friends from the East Coast to the Midwest in the U.S. followed by a dim gap and the West Coast. Canada appears to have blended with the U.S. China, Russia and most Middle Eastern countries are not seen.
The absence of these countries from the map only mean there are no registered Facebook users from these territories. China only has a few Facebook users because of the Great Firewall. Tech savvy users from China with Facebook accounts do not register their actual locations at all as they bypass their network’s firewalls through VPN servers. However, Zuckerberg is said to be doing the rounds in Chinese software companies and is quite a celebrity in those circles.
Many contend that social networks in Facebook are not indicative of actual friendships. There are people who go on there and seemingly link to random people. What is actually more prevalent in linking among total strangers is a shared interest such as gaming and liking similar special interest pages or groups in this giant social media network. The friendships may not be anything more than superficial tie-ups for more gaming leverage however they have paved the way for people to be in touch with other social circles that they may have not known about otherwise.
The social media map represented in Butler’s illustration speaks volumes on how the internet has revolutionized human contact and expansion of social horizons. People in Facebook, regardless of the depths in their friendships, are privy to what others post such as personal pictures, favorite videos and their opinions. What this map also shows is that this much data has been collected and can be benefitted from by anyone with access and the proper tools. While it is a warm reflection of reality to most idealists, it may not be looked upon positively by others with a different world view.