Does Everyone in the World Instant Message?

Posted Tuesday November 18, 2008 by John Gunders in |

A study reported by the BBC claims that the largely discredited six degrees of separation theory might in fact be correct after all:

A US study of instant messaging suggests the theory that it takes only six steps to link everyone may be right – though seven seems more accurate.

The study which was published in March this year was conducted by researchers from Microsoft and looked at the addresses of 30 billion instant messages sent during a single month in 2006.

One of the researchers on the Microsoft Messenger project, Eric Horvitz, said he had been shocked by the results.

“What we’re seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity,” he was quoted as saying by the Washington Post newspaper.

The Microsoft researchers said that, to their knowledge, their study had for the first time validated Milgram’s theory on a planetary scale.

Wait a minute… “social connectivity constant for humanity”? “planetary scale”? Since when did the users of Microsoft Messenger constitute the whole of human kind? They don’t even constitute all the people who use IM.

The problem is not with the study, but with its reporting: this sort of sloppy journalism is up there with those claims that “everyone has a telephone”, when it is clear that not everyone even has electricity. Making claims for “humanity” when you actually mean “users of MS Messenger”, or possibly “technically literate residents of industrialised nations who are able to afford the hardware and infrastructure costs that allow instant messaging” is not only lazy, it dismisses a majority of the world’s population who do not have access to this sort of communication, and denies them their humanity.

Your Comments

  1. Matthew Smith writes:

    Posted: 18 11 2008 - 05:24 | Permanent link to this comment

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    Posted: 24 11 2008 - 03:53 | Permanent link to this comment

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