Six Degrees of Separation: Navigating the Small World

2bebetter
3 min readDec 9, 2023

Unveiling the Theory

In the vast landscape of social connections, the concept of “Six Degrees of Separation” has woven an intricate web, suggesting that everyone and everything is merely six or fewer degrees away from each other. This theory, rooted in the work of Stanley Milgram, a renowned social psychologist, emerged from his groundbreaking experiments on obedience conducted at Yale in the 1960s.

Milgram’s Memory Test

Milgram’s experiments involved a unique “memory test,” where participants delivered electric shocks of increasing intensities. Notably, in 1967, he coined the phrase “6 degrees of separation” after conducting his Small World Experiment, which demonstrated the world-shrinking effect of growing social networks.

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Small World Experiment

The Small World Experiment aimed to measure the number of steps it took for a package to travel from the West Coast to a stockbroker in Boston. The intriguing finding? Merely six steps on average. Fast forward to the 21st century, where the landscape of social connections has been reshaped by the dominance of social networking sites.

Social Networks in the Digital Age

Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook have redefined how we perceive and experience the six degrees of separation. On LinkedIn, the “People You May Know” section utilizes a connection system, labeling individuals as 2nd or 3rd connections and illustrating their relationship to you through mutual acquaintances.

Facebook’s Network Dynamics

Similarly, Facebook showcases mutual friend counts and a feature that allows you to message friends of friends based on shared contacts. The conventional idea that we were all just six degrees of separation apart, connecting through mutual acquaintances, has evolved.

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Evolution in the Digital Era

Research conducted by Facebook and the University of Milan in 2011 delved into…

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