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Six Degrees Of Separation

Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called “Chains.”Most people have heard of the “six degrees of separation” theory — the idea that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by six links. Is it a myth or a fact of life?

A ‘degree of separation’ is a measure of social distance between people. You are one degree away from everyone you know, two degrees away from everyone they know, and so on. The concept was popularised by John Guare’s 1990 play, Six Degrees of Separation, which was turned into a film starring Will Smith, Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Ian McKellen.

Starting from Stanley Millgram in 1967, many people have experimented on the topic and the fight still continues. that involved sending folders or letters from a group of people in one part of the country to a specific person they didn’t know in another part of the country. The people were told to get the material to someone who might know someone that would know the individual.  In fact, he found that the letters or folders took, on average, between five and six connections to reach the intended recipient. Though the average number of links was five or six, the majority of the connections ranged from two to 10 links. In spite of being challenged by Judith S.Kleinfeld, Milgram’s work was revolutionary as it paved way to more discussion and understanding.

In 2003, Duncan Watts and colleagues at Columbia University, asked emailers to try and forward a message to one of 18 target people in 13 different countries, going via their friends and acquaintances. All together more than 60,000 people took part. They found that successful chains were completed in between 5 and 7 steps, similar to Milgram’s results. Leskovec and Horvitz for Mcrosoft in 2006, analysed data from 30 billion instant messages sent around the world and found average number between senders is a slightly bigger 6.6.  In august 15, 2015, Derek Muller of Veritasium has come up with a  a scientific explanation which makes it  easier to maintain connections with distant acquaintances than ever before. For example, Muller explained that in 2011 Facebook analysed their data and found that 92 percent of all their users were connected through just five steps. Moreover Facebook, the online social network, has a ‘six degrees’ application to test the theory through the connections of Facebook users. That may reduce a degree or two: Barack Obama already has well over a million Facebook friends.

Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet.
Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. For example, there are, at most, six people standing between you and Tom Cruise or President Obama or anyone else.

A site called Six Degrees, launched in 1997, is considered  to be the first social networking site and the precursor of sites like facebook which have effectively lowered the number of intermediaries in the chain, arguably to almost zero.  Remember that we are not talking about the chances of connection between two people taken at random. We are talking about the chances of meeting a person who knows someone from our past. Over a lifetime, these chances are high, especially for educated people who travel in similar networks. In the digital age, the world has shrunk more, turning us into a “global village.”  So lets test this to know a fact or myth!!!!!

You can definitely test theory yourself; initially I also had some doubt about the credibility of this theory as everyone else. Then I did a experiment by sending E-mail to some of my school friends,  reality is I even did not know the E-mail address of my school friends, I just know their name and place where they use to live around 20 years back. In my mail, I explained their physical appearance based on my assumption.  And I requested one of my nephews to pass this mail to my school friend whom I explained in the mail or someone who might know my school friend. I’m really surprised and happy that I can able to contact 7 school friends out of 10. Any way 3 of my school friends did not reply or they did not get my message.  And some of my friends got my message from multiple sources. In my experiment lowest chain in 4 and highest is 11.

Any way I am happy with my experiment because it helped me to understand how close we are even when we did not know. It really helped me to establish connection with my old friends, whom I thought I lost connection.  After that I tried to contact individuals in the chain unfortunately most of them did not reply, thinking it’s a Spam message…..

I request you to please try from your side and please share your experience….  Please note that it will take some time so be patient, as still I am waiting for my unconnected 3 friends….