I am fascinated by this idea that everyone in the world is connected by an average of six links. Despite the fact that it’s been proven in multiple studies, it’s still difficult to believe how small the world is, socially. I read a few articles about the phenomenon that I wanted to share here.
The first article I read is one written by the Guardian back in 2008 declaring that Microsoft had completed an expensive study using data from its messaging service which concluded that everyone is connected by an average of 6.6 links. This study was done back when the global population was only 6.6 billion, so the number Microsoft calculated was one billionth of the population of the world. According to the article, “some [people] were separated by as many as 29 steps,” which sets the average off a bit. What’s interesting to me is that for the average to be as low as it is, there must be a considerable number of paths below that average in order to offset the outliers on the high side. Another interesting aspect of the article is its mention of Kevin Bacon’s website, sixdegrees.org, a website that uses the six degrees of separation idea “to accomplish something good.”
The other article I read is more recent, and it comes from a scientific news website called sciencealert.com. The article includes a video in which the host discusses the implications of living in a world as interconnected as ours. A computer hacker wrote a code for his Myspace page (back when Myspace had about 35 million active users) that was programmed to be copied by anyone who views his page, and within 18 hours this code had spread to one million accounts. According to the video and article, this interconnectedness has only been accelerating in recent years. As online social networks rise in popularity and people continue to develop their online presences, six degrees of separation could easily become five or fewer.