The idea of six degrees of separation, also known as the six handshakes rule, suggests that anyone on the planet can be linked to anyone else in just six steps. Through this chain of connections, you can be linked to the Queen, Leonardo Dicaprio or even a Somalian sheep herder.
According to the theory, every person in the world knows around 100 people through being friends, family, acquaintances or co-workers. As each person also knows 100 others, the number of people connected in just the second link of the chain increases to 10,000. By the sixth link of the chain, you could connect 1,000,000,000,000 people (one trillion) people – a number that far exceeds the total population of the planet.
In the 1960s, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to research how closely connected people can be without realising it. He sent a letter to 160 people in Nebraska with one stockbroker’s name and address, and asked each person to write their name on the letter and send it on to someone who might get that letter one step closer to the stockbroker in Boston.
Each person added their name then forwarded the letter on until it reached its final destination, showing Milgram that it only took five or six people to link one person to another. This created the concept of six degrees of separation.
Furthermore, through this experiment Milgram found out that half of the letters that were given to the stockbroker were delivered by the same three people. Although the experiment proved the six degrees of separation theory, it also showed how a small group of individuals are connected to a disproportionately large number of people.
These people are called connectors: individuals that seem to know everyone and are extremely sociable. They have an ability to connect with a large number of friends but also acquaintances, with different social circles and communities.
Your Connections, Your Story
With the technology of social media and the Internet, it’s not only easier to be able to visualise these links but also the ability to stay in contact with your friends and family.
When writing your autobiography, you can consider your own individual unique group of at least 100 people you know. This theory puts fate into perspective: how amazing it is to link with people through family, friends or acquaintances so that they become part of your life, and of your story.