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{21/05/2012}   Six degrees of separation

Six degrees of separation

     I have always found the six degrees of separation concept fascinating, that I can say, “a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend can introduce me to George Clooney”; the reality of “it’s a small world”.  I also find it bizarre that you can randomly meet people who it turns out you share a friend or history of some sort with.  Is it fate, coincidence or other?

While I was at University in Oxford, Mississippi (aha, I met and spoke to Woody Harrelson while I was there, I wonder if he knows George?!) I found a connection to most (for once, not exaggerating by saying “most”) of the other British students there.  One I went to school with between 11 and 13, but we only recognised each other’s name despite both knowing a lot of the same people, one girl grew up on the same road (where her parents still lived) as a friend of mine was living at that time, one was the friend of a friend’s boyfriend, another was a childhood friend of someone I’d been living in the same Halls with at University and a few more tentative connections.  Weird.

I would one day like to sit down with a friend I didn’t go to school with and see if we can work out a random friend in common.  I do sometimes find that out on Facebook though, when it appears you unexpectedly have a friend in common.

The six degrees of separation idea is probably key to networking, thinking about who you know who might know the person you want to know, or equally befriending or introducing yourself to someone who might be useful in the future.  Through such networks, I’ve been able to put people in touch with each other, sought advice and found out lots of useful things.

I have often found myself wondering how I could be six degrees from, say, a woman living in a remote mountain village in Tibet.  Now, here’s a funny thing:  I wrote the Philippines, Georgia, India …. then realised I had connections to all those countries, including two to Tibet, as it happens.  So maybe it isn’t that unlikely after all.  I can think of fewer connections to remote southern hemisphere islands, but all it would take for a sparsely populated island to be connected to me would be one friend who knew someone who had stayed on or lived on such an island.  For example, I have a friend who lived on the Solomon Islands for a while.

One final pondering is the extent to which you need to know someone for them to count as one of your degrees.  I ordered drinks from a barman last night, is he now a degree?  I would say not as I wouldn’t recognise him on the street and I don’t know his name.  If I randomly met someone and started talking to them, then we exchanged names, would that be a degree?  I have the play, Six Degrees of Separation, I’m going to see if that gives me the answers!

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