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Less Than 4 Degrees of Separation….Too Close for Comfort?

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A short story written by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 entitled “Chains” or “Chain-Links”, suggested that any one person is not distanced by more than 6 links to any other person in the world through friends, acquaintances and family. This theory was known as the 6 Degrees of Separation. However, with the boom of social networking sites such as Facebook, the degree of separation theory is finally able to be measured. Although only a portion of the world’s population, approximately 10% are using sites such a Facebook, it’s a big enough sample space to determine that with every year that the number of users grown on social networks, the degree of separation shrinks. It is now estimated that there is on average only 3.7 degrees of separation from any one person to another. It seems the days of having a circle or “clique” has come to an end as we all seem to be apart of each other’s circle some way some how.

Not only does the decrease in the degrees of separation make the world feel that much smaller, but could it ultimately help with race relations? This decrease displays that racial barriers are often blurred in the social networking world and we are closer to one another than we might think. I myself have witnessed being associated with someone or having met someone who recognized me from interacting online with a mutual Facebook Friend or from having followed them on Twitter. Immediately the decrease in the degrees of separation is realized when this happens but it can also be quite awkward. Doesn’t it feel strange that a person whom you’ve never met in person recognizes you and feel as if they know you from the photos, statuses and biographical information that you post online? This is something that Celebrities are accustom to from being in the public eye, however essentially social networks place us all in the public eye.

This is why I pose the question, is the impact more positive or negative on our society that social networks are closing the gaps that we have from one person to another? We are able to interact with people whom we may never crossed paths with in reality, we discover that one of our friends also knows another friend that we would have probably never figured out if it weren’t for social networks…the list can go on and on about the ways this decrease is happening but is there a way to use this to benefit society or is it a dangerous slippery slope of uncomfortable encounters, and being closer to people we might not prefer to be?

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