Technology bridges distance and borders. Individuals today can keep in touch with their friends and family in completely new ways — regardless of where they live. We explored these international connections through Facebook and found some trends — some predictable, some wholly unexpected, and some still inexplicable.
Who can explain the strong link between the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest countries in the heart of Africa, and Ecuador? The reason the Central African Republic might be good friends with Kazakhstan is likewise mysterious to us.
But as we did a little research, some unusual connections become surprisingly clear. We learned that immigration between Japan and Brazil dates back to the 1970s, that Poles are the largest immigrant group in Iceland, and that more people commute across the border each day to work in Liechtenstein than Liechtensteiner locals going to work in their own country.
Immigration is one of the strongest links that seems to bind these Facebook neighbors, as thousands of people pour over borders or over seas, seeking jobs or fleeing violence, and making new connections and maintaining old friendships along the way. Economic links, through trade or investment, also seem to be strong predictors of country connectedness. And finally, one of the most overwhelming trends we found as we explored this graphic is the strong tie that remains between nations and their former colonizers, whose continued linguistic, cultural, and economic ties still echo today.
A Stanford graduate in International Relations, Mia Newman's research provided "A Closer Look" at the relationships between countries. She will spend the next year as a John Gardner Fellow pursuing her interest in civilian protection in international conflict. This interactive map was built in collaboration with Stamen, a design and technology studio in San Francisco specializing in maps and data visualizations.