Imagine this: you are connected to every single human being on this planet through six people or less.
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people can be connected in six or fewer steps, so the “friend of a friend” statements could be made to connect any two people in the world in six steps or less. This idea was set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and was later popularized by John Guare in a play in 1990.
The idea of six degrees of separation has been around for over 80 years, though 80 years ago, it was just a concept. In 1929, a short story called “Chains” by Frigyes Karinthy was published, and it proposed the first idea of six degrees of separation. Later in 1990, John Guare wrote a play called Six Degrees of Separation that further publicized the idea.
Small world experiment
The small world experiment was a project to examine the average path length for social networks in the United States. Stanley Milgram was the leader of this experiment. The project was often referred to as six degrees of separation, although Milgram never considered it to be even remotely similar.
The shrinking world
In the early 1900s, there wasn’t any technology or online social networks to promote meeting or “friending” more and more people. Now, as technology and easier travel advances, scientists are beginning to believe that there may be as little as two or three steps between every person.
When I first learned about this subject I thought it was crazy that all 7.4 billion people could be connected to me in so few steps, so I decided to “conduct an experiment.” I chose one random famous person to help me with my experiment: John Lennon. When I was talking with one of my friends on this topic, she said something interesting about how there are “more significant” people in these “chain links,” who know either tons of famous people or just tons of people in general, and there are “less significant” people who just know a few people to further put on the chain.
As I was trying to figure out how I could possibly be connected to John Lennon (other than my parents going to Beatles concerts), I remembered that my best friend’s dad is a journalist and he interviews famous people for a living. He told me one time that his son, Levi, had been on a phone call with Yoko Ono. When he told me this, John Lennon had been dead for a good 30 years, but at one point, Yoko Ono had been John Lennon’s wife.
Being said, there are three degrees of separation between John Lennon and I, because I know my best friend, Violet, Violet knows her brother, her brother knows Yoko Ono, and Yoko Ono knows John Lennon. The two people being connected don’t count.
There isn’t any way to prove that six degrees of separation is true, but there have been successful experiments to make the theory entirely believable, especially with technology and travel advances to make the world smaller.
Story by Ava Macie
Lyster, Zelkadis Elvi and Lauren. “Just Explain It: Six Degrees of Separation.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 8 May 2013, www.yahoo.com/news/just-explain-it--six-degrees-of-separation-212602206.html.
“What Is Six Degrees of Separation? - Definition from WhatIs.com.” WhatIs.com, whatis.techtarget.com/definition/six-degrees-of-separation.