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The Six Degrees of Separation | Naomi D’Souza

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In a world of 7.8 billion people, it is incredibly easy to feel small and insignificant. When we look at celebrities and their star-studded lives, we isolate them into a category of individuals we will never be able to meet.

Mathematically speaking, however, at most we are only 6 people away from meeting them! 🤯

What Is the “Six Degrees of Separation”?

Dubbed as the “Six Degrees of Separation”, this theory states that to meet anyone in the world, all we’d have to do is go through a maximum of six people! Any person on this planet could meet anyone else on Earth with a maximum of six mutual connections, or five intermediaries. 👩🏻‍🦰-🧑‍🦲-🧑‍🦲-🧑‍🦲-🧑‍🦲-🧑‍🦲-👨🏻‍🦰

This theory was suggested by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, through his story called Chain Links- published in 1929. In it, he posited that the number of people known by an individual grows exponentially to the number of relationships within a chain. ⛓

As per his theory, an individual only needs a small number of acquaintances or mutuals to get to know anyone in the world.

The foundation of this theory is based on the fact that every single individual on this planet is linked or chained together in the form of acquaintance chains and, through a sequence, will be able to meet with any other individual. A degree in this instance is a measure of social distance between people. 👭

How Does the Theory Work?

When this theory was first proposed, it boggled many brilliant minds who instantly started working on seeing whether this theory could be mathematically proven or not. This theory has developed its own mathematical formula that involves tabulating the average number of people a single person may know. 🧑‍🦱

According to the theory, each person in the world knows about 100 people. Though it may seem hard to believe that we have at least 100 friends, when we put it into perspective- we can probably list them out if we needed to. 😮 This includes family, friends, and even distant acquaintances. If we do the quick math involved and get to know each person within a mutuals circle, at the sixth level of acquaintance you would know approximately 1,000,000,000,000 people. Insane. 🤯

All the way back in 2006, Microsoft conducted their own study using their social media platform to see whether this was truly valid and to their surprise, the calculations came up to 6.6 mutual connections. Years later, Facebook did their own study and was able to shorten it to just about 3.74. 😯

With the advent of social media, these six degrees have further reduced themselves due to the ease of access with various individuals regardless of culture or geographical boundaries.

This theory is looked at as one of the foundations for social media networking, and through the development of apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, the chain is only shortening itself as time goes on. Those who knew of the theory saw the potential Social Networking and the Internet had way back before any of these sites even came up since the first social media site that allowed for a user profile and connections was SixDegrees.com. 😄

This theory puts our minds into perspective about the world and people we surround ourselves with and we truly begin to understand the realm of possibility that lies before us and how things that may seem out of this world are just within an arms reach. 🤝

So, whenever you feel small- just know that you aren’t small, the world is! 🌎


Written and Researched by Nikita Jacob

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