The six degrees of seperation (sic) is now three
Six degrees of separation has fallen to three due to the impact of social networking and developments in technology, according to a study carried out by O2.
The term was coined by US psychologist Stanley Milgram following a 1967 experiment. The six degrees theory was upheld in a 2006 Microsoft study of instant messenger conversations. However, the O2 study reveals that within a shared ‘interest’ network (i.e. hobbies, sport, music, religion, sexuality etc), the average person is connected by just three degrees.
Rodrigues finds that we are usually part of three main networks based on family, friendship and work. Outside of these we are, on average, part of five main shared ‘interest’ networks based on a range of personal interests from hobbies, sport, music and the neighbourhood we live in, to religion, sexuality and politics. It is the growth of these shared interest networks and the influence of technology on them that has led to the reduction in the number of degrees of separation.
Email and mobile phones were the technologies that had the most significant impact in facilitating the reduction of degrees from six to three. Of those participating in the study that were asked to make contact with an unknown person, the majority (98 per cent) chose to use either the internet or their mobile phone, across all age groups. Texting was also seen as a universally important technology whilst social networking sites such as Facebook were highly rated by the youngest age bracket but usage declined drastically the older in age was asked.