I was in my early teens when I first heard about the ‘Six Degrees of Seperation’ – every individual on the planet is connected to every other individual by a maximum of six people.
I tried playing the game with the names of as many famous people as I could think of, and I ended up finding most of them on the third or fourth step itself. But then I had a trump card up my sleeve – Tatha. Tatha had been on first name terms with many of the top scientists of the day, so that took care of anyone I could think of in the field of science (Dr. XYZ was a biologist, so he must be known to Francis Crick, who was known to my Tatha). Tatha had also met most of political leaders of
I soon tired of the game, and was reminded of it only the other day when I was searching for someone on LinkedIn. A google search for Sarah Palin found its way into my LinkedIn search, and I found that eight people I know, know someone who is known to Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin led me to John McCain – 36 people I am connected to are connected to someone who is connected to John McCain. By now I was hooked – 109 people I know, know someone known to Barack Obama, and the number is a dismal 10 for Hillary Clinton. I was heartbroken to find that neither Bill Clinton nor Bill Gates is on my personal network – but since both of them are likely to known to Hillary Clinton, I am one additional step away from them both.
The 253 people that I know, between them know over 25,600 people, and they know a further 1,518,700 people. Which means there are more than 15 million people on my LinkedIn network alone. None of these are casual acquaintances – a LinkedIn connection is made only when one person invites another to be a connection, and the other person accepts. You may not have found all the people who you know, and who are on LinkedIn, and not everyone is on LinkedIn – my husband, for instance, refuses to sign-up because he thinks all networking sites are a waste of time – which makes your network much larger than it appears to be on LinkedIn.
Which means that I may well be connected – connected, as in actually connected – to everyone on the planet with less than the mandatory six steps.
The world IS much smaller than I ever imagined it to be. And social networking sites are just making it smaller still.