Six Degrees: The theory

August 17, 2011

In 1929, Hungarian writer, Frigyes Karinthy, first proposed the idea of six degrees of separation. In his short story 'chains'. The concept is based on the idea that the number of acquaintances grows exponentially with a number of links in the chain. Only a small number of links is required for the set of acquaintances to become the whole human population. By extension, the same term is often used to describe any other setting in which some form of link exists between individual entities in a large set.

His theory could not be proven or disproved by the simple fact that the technology was not available to test it. Fast forward 60 years and the evolution of the internet suddenly made the possibility of such a test seem more achievable.

Fast forward again to the present day and the emergence of social media, in particular Faceook, which has linked up over 700 million people and this theory can finally be put to the test.
Yahoo and Facebook have linked up in what they have termed the 'small world experiment', setting the task of proving or disproving the theory of six degrees.

From the Yahoo press conference: 'The Small World Experiment is designed to test the hypothesis that anyone in the world can get a message to anyone else in just "six degrees of separation" by passing it from friend to friend. Sociologists have tried to prove (or disprove) this claim for decades, but it is still unresolved.
Now, using Facebook we finally have the technology to put the hypothesis to a proper scientific test. By participating in this experiment, you'll not only get to see how you're connected to people you might never otherwise encounter, you will also be helping to advance the science of social networks.'

From an Irish marketing perspective this is an interesting one to watch, since our population is relatively small comparative to other countries. The saturation of social media in Ireland is higher than many EU countries and with the reduction in price of smart phones by the top 3 networks, this is set to rise even more.

I'll be following the progress of the project and will update as soon as more information is available.

For those interesting in participating in it, they can join here.

Eric Hennelly Flanagan, Six Degrees
Six Degrees is a marketing agency based in Galway, Ireland. It offers a full range of social media and marketing services tailored to suit the requirements of the client. We not only develop strategies to enhance and develop brands, but offer continued support and advice to maintain the momentum of any brand building exercise. Our focus is to deliver the maximum results to each of our clients, with a friendly personal service.