Using some fancy algorithms and millions of weighted data points, Paul Butler, basically drew a map of the world with lines showing where the strongest connections are between countries and cities based on Facebook friendships (ten million pairs of friends in fact).
The results were visually fascinating and most likely had people jumping to conclusions about who are the most connected users on Facebook, however it has to be remembered it’s only a sample and like any data-driven assumption could be completely wrong. Having said that it’s still a curious look at how different countries are caught up with social media, including those small islands in the Pacific, pushed off to the far bottom right of the map.
Are Kiwis Facebook-friendly? – Not that friendliness can be judged by the number of Facebook connections a person has made but it can be a measure of how outgoing they are in the online world (hey I was able to get Jason Kerrison to friend me, but lost that special feeling when I realised he was just friending everyone and I was but another notch in his belt on the way to the Facebook friend limit, which I think is 5000).
Friendships start with people – From the image drawn by friend connections (high res original version available here) we can see some definite correlations of networking where there are high concentrations of people. So that was the first amazing revelation – friendships require people as their primary ingredient. So less populated areas like Haast are, in Facebook language, disconnected, while the more urban areas around the Bombay Hills are buzzing. Even small islands west of Africa are not left out with connections showing for Saint Helena, so the Friendface, I mean Facebook, virus is spreading and is bound to cover the less isolated areas of NZ in due course. Moral of the story? Need more friends then move somewhere that has a lot of people. Yep I bet you’re glad you read this now.
Maybe Aussies aren’t so bad? – According to the research we share strong ties with Australia, notably the three main centres of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Whether we are connecting with our Kiwi mates currently exiled in the West Island or we’ve actually made friends children of convicts we don’t know but they are by far and away our biggest link in the world of Facebook. Conclusion? Facebook was developed by John Howard’s liberals to eventually claim New Zealand as a seventh state by creating so many friend ties that we could no longer claim independence.
Keep close ties with our Pacific brothers – Just because we only visit once a year (normally in the dead cold of winter) it doesn’t mean we don’t like to keep in touch with our friends in the friendly isles. Proving that all you need is a phone line and an old 486 to get on to Facebook, plenty of the outer islands are linked back to New Zealand, mostly South Auckland actually.
The whole world is just a mouse click away – When you follow the lines from New Zealand you’ll notice we have them coming out of the country in all directions. And because the data used for this map are friend pairs we know the connection we have with the outside world is reciprocal. So just because we’re isolated by thousands of miles of ocean we’re not socially withdrawn, alone but not lonely if I can use that worn-out cliche. In fact, we use Facebook as our springboard for international travel, in much the same way Paul Smith used Twitter to travel the world. In summary, New Zealanders have not only made and maintained a lot of international connections from numerous overseas adventures but we’re also a veritable melting pot of cultures with links to just about every corner of the planet – that’s a good platform to travel from.
While this whole experiment used only a sample 10 million friend “pairs” of the total 500 million Facebook users (2%) it shows globalisation is not just about commerce, it’s affecting society at every level. Individuals in disparate countries are connecting, creating a world without borders, an international village showing that despite any warring tension between countries, we can shake hands and be Farmville neighbours, turning our swords into combine harvesters and making sure no kittens are left unbrushed. Isn’t the world a rosier place when you’re wearing blue-tinted glasses?