How well do you know President Obama? Are you friends with the Pope? What about Taylor Swift? The world is a lot smaller than we make it out to be. In fact, only three degrees of separation lies between me and President Obama and four degrees separate me from Pope Francis. Everyone on this planet is connected to everyone else by a maximum of six degrees of separation. This means that you are at the very most, six handshakes away from your favorite author, celebrity, or athlete.
Hungarian author and journalist Frigyes Karinthy came up with this “small world” theory in 1929 and since then, several mathematicians, scientists, and psychologists have collaborated in proving this theory.
In 1967, Stanley Miligram conducted an experiment to test this theory. Miligram had a person from the Mid-West send a package to a random stranger in Massachusetts. The person in Massachusetts sent the package to one of their friends who they thought would be most likely to know the original sender. This process continued until the package was delivered personally to the target recipient. This experiment was completed multiple times and Miligram found that the average times the package was personally delivered was five to seven times until it found its way back to the original sender. This experiment helped Stanley conclude that the furthest degree of separation from another person is six degrees.
The “small world” theory shows us that the world is so interconnected that anyone can be linked to any person in the world through a chain of acquaintances that have no more than five people in between. With the advent of online social media networks, various news outlets, and a much larger means of communication, this concept is even more relevant today.
We as humans inherently feel close to each other. This “small world” theory ties us closer together and allows us to feel connected to one another. It isn’t rare to meet a stranger only to find out that somehow and somewhere, that stranger knows a friend of yours.
Next time you go to a concert or attend a sports game, wouldn’t it be cool to figure out that an introduction to Beyonce or Stephen Curry would be in your grasp? To have a smaller number of degrees think outside your immediate family. You should ask your grandparents and aunts and uncles to famous people they have possibly met. Who knows, maybe one of these famous people like Mark Zuckerberg will send you a friend request on Facebook or follow you on Snapchat. After all, between you and me, this world is pretty small.