“Less than six degrees of separation exist between you and several million strangers who you may or may not encounter in your lifetime. When we understand the structure of this communication net, we stand to grasp a good deal more about the fabric of society. Maybe it’s not necessarily justified, this common human complaint. The feeling that we’re all cut off, alienated, and alone. I don’t need to go into detail do I?” – Stanley Milgram.
Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries. If you look hard enough, you could be five people away between you and King Charles.
The curiosity of psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s initiated the research around the hypothesis Small world problem, the intuitive notion that every person is connected, which ended up as the theory of six degrees of separation.
Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in his book titled Chains, first proposed the theory of six degrees of separation in 1929, later expanded by Stanley Milgram, the idea of six degrees of separation offers that any two individuals on Earth can be connected through a maximum of six interconnected connections. In simpler terms, the world is a lot smaller and more connected than we might think. Mathematically speaking, this theory relates to graph theory, where individuals are represented as nodes, and their relationships are represented as edges.
But something has happened with the dominance of the technology-inspired world. The degree of separation has become less and less. Suddenly, boundaries of time and space seem to dissolve, enabling us to interact with individuals across continents with just a click. The six degrees of separation are, however, possibly now two: a device and a random person’s retweet. A friend of a friend’s post can become a shared interest, leading to new friendships or even professional collaborations.
Social media poses its own distinct set of problems. Algorithms have been designed to keep users interested so our preconceived biases are protected. We are unable to make genuine connections except for a few. The point of connection is to be whole, healthier, and happier people. But are we? The lines are blurred in connecting, but how happy are we?
So, how can we reduce the separation and test the theory in our lives? Here’s a fun experiment: the “Six Degrees Challenge.” Begin by choosing two individuals who seem far removed from each other regarding occupation, location, or interests. Then, challenge yourself to connect them through your network within six steps. You’ll be surprised by the unexpected connections you uncover and the serendipitous paths that emerge. Or you could send a direct message on any of the existing platforms.
Nurturing meaningful connections through active community participation, attending events, or joining online forums centring around your passions can significantly enhance your network. Remember, it’s not just about collecting online acquaintances but forging genuine relationships that can create ripples of connection.
In conclusion, the theory of six degrees of separation offers a thought-provoking lens through which to examine our interconnected world. Social media has expanded and altered the landscape, providing unparalleled opportunities to connect conscious efforts to break free from digital bubbles. By actively seeking diverse connections and engaging in meaningful interactions, we can reduce the separation and unravel the intricate web of human relationships that weave us together.