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Six degrees of separation

 Ebru Keskin

Ebru Keskin

Hard to imagine that from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the world any one given individual is only 6 degrees away from being known to us. This means that any two people can be connected through only five acquaintances. It is also explored in debt in one of my favorite books by Milan Kundera 'Immortality'  where he delves into the world of coincidences and through his masterful writing technique brings unlikely characters together through a sequence of events that, seeming unrelated, in fact shape each others destiny. This is a mathematical theory based on human behavior and interaction and probably is the foundation of the social networks we now use every day without thinking about this concept.

Each one of us know through our every day lives and interactions know many people who in turn know others who know others and so on. This makes our world even smaller and smaller hence the expression 'shrinking world'. Whilst it may have developed into a sophisticated theory by those examining it, humans innately are aware of this. If you are Turkish you must know what I am referring to; recall all those times when you met someone for the first time and they asked you who your parents were and where you were from and where you studied and concluded that perhaps you were in fact long lost relatives? This is me being cheeky of course, but it is still true that it probably is so and we are all related to one another. As sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn dominate the online world all of us each day use this theory to our advantage. Whether we are looking for business contacts or we are searching for a long lost friend online we all use the 6 degrees of separation as a tool to bring us closer to the people we want to know or find. Many times I have seen a status update of a friend who is looking for a contact that works for a certain company in a specific department. Before long the comments posted in response bring about a contact who is able to introduce him to this contact.

LinkedIn which is a professional networking site uses this theory to bring together professionals who do similar jobs. Facebook also works so well because of this theory. In order to keep a person interested in socialising online they need to have enough stimulation and interest from others or their interest slacks. You will often see Facebook friend recommendations and when you do peruse through it you will discover that the weird guy who keeps harassing you is in fact your friends brothers friend! It is no coincidence that Facebook is being ever so friendly to suggest these friends to you because more friends mean more time spent on Facebook and more stimuli from being on it. Hence more opportunity to get impressions of adverts and promotions. The same with Twitter, the more people who you follow the more people follow you and more time is spent on Twitter interacting.

Advertising impressions, interactions, degrees of separation...Maybe I got a little too technical and perhaps earned the comment geek which someone called me this week. Me? A geek? Well I never!!! What it all comes down to is that the more we interact with friends, colleagues and family online via social networks the smaller our world gets. We stay current with family and friends who we are not able to see regularly. It is a comfort to those who work long hours to be able to log in and catch up with their friends lives and find out good news of births, weddings, anniversaries and sometimes sad events. Everywhere I look I see people glued to their phones or whatever gadget they are latched onto and whilst it gives the impression that our lives are becoming more cyber than real it doesn't necessarily mean that at all. I see something else, I see a world of people connected through networking. I see people who are more knowledgeable and in the know. There are many groups online who actively support certain organisations such as Greenpeace, animals rights, charities. There is a lot of good happening. The public awareness is becoming heightened and we are better informed of the decisions our peers are making for our future. It gives people voice and the right to express their thoughts. Admittedly this doesn't stop a lot of bad political decisions being made but non the less it is a step forward into a future where there may actually be democracy and fairness in the world. E-harmony claims that 1 in 5 marriages are now the result of people meeting online! That's a whopping amount considering the fact that not long ago meeting partners through websites were exclusively for old lonely men with cash to splurge on a young wife from an obscure country. You know what I am talking about!!!

Of course for the 6 degrees of separation to truly work there needs to be key people in your life. Those social butterflies...a little like myself who know everyone and who is actively socializing constantly. Its intriguing to see how this theory that evolved to the networking idea now dominates our lives. It bought us along to a brand new era of interaction.

Finding jobs are easier now, finding partners apparently easier too. Not only that ;finding people who share your weird little interests has also become easier. Its not all good of course as the riots showed us only too well that social interaction can bring about organised crime, but every power brings about the potential to be abused.

The truth of the matter is that in order to stay current you need to have some kind of social persona, a presence in the world of online networking. Be it that you may work in sales and and it can boost your reach or you are in advertising and can reach more customers through the online platforms. Yes there are people who have no involvement with internet, online networking or media and get on just fine. But I am not one of those people and don't know many who are. You may not have any of those Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn in accounts but you are surely using MSN or Skype or another means of networking and interaction. It would be crazy not to, it makes life a lot easier and allows you to reach farther and farther.

So if its true that people are 6 degrees away from being known to you, can it get to a stage where those degrees seem to be getting narrower and narrower? Very likely. Here is me thinking that I have the anonymity that comes with living in a metropolitan city and yet each day I realise the people around me are becoming a even tighter knit than before. So the more you network the closer your degrees of separation becomes. Lately I have been noticing that perhaps my degrees of separation got a little too narrow since everyone I meet or know is a friend or associate of one another. So if there is 6 degrees of separation how is it that I keep pumping into the same characters throughout my life at each turn? Or have I simply narrowed down the degrees too much and every one is two degrees away now? If this theory is true then this means that someone will read this and share and someone else will read it in turn and at some point a certain someone, who by the mere mention of their name simply gets my mind muddled up, will read this and without knowing it get the message that they should call me.

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