One Degree of Separation

Unless you live off the grid in the mountains of Idaho, you’ve likely heard of the theory of six degrees of separation. The concept made popular by the movie and the Kevin Bacon game speaks to the idea that everyone on this planet is connected by no more than six degrees of separation. And while I don’t really believe that we are separated by one degree like the title of this post suggests, I do feel like we are closer to two or three degrees than six. The problem is, when the idea of six degrees came along, there was no world wide web, Facebook or LinkedIn. Now that there is, we can start to see these connections more clearly than ever.

To illustrate my point of how small the world is (and how LinkedIn and Facebook help us see these connections), I asked the question on Google + and Facebook. Within minutes, I got some amazing responses, the most relevant of which I have included below.

    • Jeannie Walters – 1. My college roommate worked with my Chicago friend in Kansas City. Because of FB, we discovered this and the 3 of us had dinner when friend was visiting Chicago. 2. My cousin in Atlanta is connected to various business connections of mine. He is 10 years older and we have never lived in the same state.
    • DJ Waldow – Spoke with a women yesterday who say my blog post that included a video of +Jay Baer. Turns out that she lives in AZ and knew Jay back when he was Jason. Ha.
    • Damion White – When a fellow Davidson College athlete in my stats class looked over at my comp screen during class the Monday after spring break 2004, noticed my Facebook page (yes, I said 2004), and then mouthed that the girl who’s friend request I was accepting had arrived at his and her NJ HS graduation in a Rolls Royce Phantom. I asked what the hell he was getting at, and that was how I found out that one of the girls in the group from St. Johns University that we had hung out with and befriended on Spring Break in Miami was Vanessa Simmons, daughter of Reverend Run of Run DMC.
    • Elmer Boutin – On my employer’s Facebook page, we encourage people to share pictures of their kitchen remodels using our products. One person who did writes a blog. Reading that I found she was from my hometown in Michigan. I emailed her and found she lives 6-blocks away from my mom and her sisters went to high school with my brother.
    • Judy Madonna Moriarty – Absolutely! One of my FB/twitter friends in Miami (whom I’ve never met in real life but have had many on-line convos with) posted a pic of herself cheek-to-cheek with one of my oldest IRL friends from NYC who now lives in Miami. I found out later they’ve been friends for a long time. FB & Twitter are definitely shrinking the degrees of separation!
    • Alexa Scordato – How about that time you were in Minnesota and bumped into my friend Shawn Horton at the Apple Store? The three of us were only in the same location once and that was at Podcamp in Boston years ago. Super super small world!
    • Rachel Happe McEnroe – A few weeks ago two ex-colleagues, one from 15 years ago and one from 3 years ago both friended the same person on FB on the same day (close enough that it came up in my stream somewhat at the same time). Weird.
    • Mike Lewis – Yesterday someone from college reached out to tell me my Aunt is her daughter’s daycare provider. She found out my aunt and I were connected through FB… very small world.
    • Bob Blount – Friend moves to Singapore (I learn about it via one of my social sites). Time goes by, I see a post or two and wish her well. Months later… On the phone with a colleague at my company about business in Singapore. At the end of the call I say, hey if you’re ever looking for an amazing PR Professional I have a friend that lives in Singapore you should talk to. When I tell her the name she says… “no way, I just extended her an offer yesterday”. I would have never said anything had it not seen her post. #smallworld
    • Elysa Rice – I have a good one… In June a person from Social Media Club Dallas came up to me and said “How do you know Lesa R?” to which I responded “umm that’s my step-mom, how do you know her”… her response “we went to 6th grade together in Kentucky” — the Facebook birthday game is what tipped her off that we had both commented on same person’s wall.

While this might be cool, you might ask what’s the point Well, for starters, it means that you might be a little more mindful about how you treat people. You never know when your neighbor, former boyfriend, gym mate or even fellow traveler could be your next boss. Or better yet, your client. This also means that you might be careful about what/how you share on your social networks. That’s not to say that you should be paranoid to the point that you are left sharing pictures with your immediate family and best friend from high school, but rather that you might think twice next time when you decide to share that late night picture of you doing body shots. Or the picture of you with the low cut speedo/skimpy bikini on.

On the positive side, the fact that we are all more closely connected than ever before (and have the tools to see these connections) means that when you are searching for a job, a prospective employee or new customers, the first place to start might be in your own network. Whenever people ask me to help them with a job search, I suggest that they connect with me on LinkedIn and then do a regional or industry search of my connections. For one, this helps me because I can’t proactively remember 5% of the people I’m connected with at any given time (nor do I always know where they work if we’re just friends). Second, if someone is looking for a job at a specific company, they can see if the people I know are connected to the hiring manager at that company.

So what about you? Do you have a story about your (less) than six degrees of separation?