Facebook intern Paul Butler has generated a stunning visualisation that shows the relationship between over 500 million Facebook users. “I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends”, he writes. “I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them”.
The image above shows where people live in relation to their Facebook friends, with each line representing a connection between different cities. Brighter lines = more friends between the cities.
After adjusting the graphic and data, Butler was surprised at the detailed image of the globe that emerged, though he writes: “What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.
“When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.”
The large sections of the world that are missing represent the areas with the least Facebook presence, for example China and Central Africa.