Paul Butler (a Facebook engineer) put together an amazingly visual social media map that connects fellow friends on Facebook from their respective locations around the world. What came out was a beautifully rendered world map with countries on all five glowing continents. Streams of fluorescent blue lines overlap each other through this representation of people and their social ties. In fact, what it has illustrated is that we, in the age of interconnectivity, have made the world much smaller with human ties spanning the oceans.
Butler used the data of 500 million people on Facebook. He drew a point for each user at their registered location and drew lines between the user and their friends. The greater number of friendships within the 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 outlines.
The brightest sections of the social media map are the Americas, Europe, and Asia. There is a large concentration of friends from the East Coast to the Midwest of the United States, followed by a faint gap and the West Coast. Canada seems to have mingled with the US China, Russia and most of the Middle Eastern countries are not seen.
The absence of these countries on the map only means that there are no registered Facebook users from these territories. China only has a few Facebook users due to the Great Firewall. Chinese tech savvy users with Facebook accounts don’t log their actual locations at all as they bypass their network firewalls through VPN servers. However, Zuckerberg is said to be circulating in Chinese software companies and is a celebrity in those circles.
Many argue that social media on Facebook is not indicative of real friendships. There are people who go there and seemingly bond with random people. What is actually more prevalent in the bonding between strangers is a shared interest, such as playing games and liking similar pages or special interest groups on this gigantic social network. Friendships may be nothing more than superficial ties to gain more influence in the game, however they have paved the way for people to be in contact with other social circles that they might not have known otherwise.
The social media map depicted in Butler’s illustration speaks volumes about how the Internet has revolutionized human contact and the expansion of social horizons. People on Facebook, regardless of the depth of their friendships, are aware of what others post, such as personal photos, favorite videos, and their opinions. What this map also shows is that this vast amount of data has been collected and anyone with the right access and tools can benefit from it. While it is a warm reflection of reality for most idealists, other people with a different world view may not see it positively.