There Are No Longer Six Degrees of Separation: Contacting Anyone Who’s Online
This article was originally published on my blog on August 31st, 2016.
How I was introduced to this concept
The idea of the Six Degrees of Separation was first presented to me in a book by Malcolm Gladwell called, “The Tipping Point.” In it, Gladwell writes about three types of early adopters one must build relationships with to effectively introduce a product or service to the mass markets (the mainstream). Of the three types, one of them has the particular ability to leverage their networks to spread news via word of mouth; they are called connectors. I was then reintroduced to the idea of connectors in “Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success” by Shane Snow. Shane Snow mentions super-connectors in the film industry and how they leverage their networks not only for themselves but, for other people as well. Being altruistic with your network helps build it faster. The more you help others below you grow to be even better than you, the more attention you gain during more extended periods of time (this is how I interpreted Shane’s chapter on the subject). The concept of how networks could be perceived through this role has peaked my curiosity to the point in which, I try to leverage the idea every time I interact with anyone online.
The Six Degrees of Separation as I see it
The Six Degrees of Separation is a concept closely related to connectors and super connectors (people who excel at networking and spreading ideas). These connectors are people who can leverage the fact that one person can know and potentially be introduced to anyone in the world by the maximum separation of 6 people within their network (everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world).
For example, someone I know on my Dad’s side of my family possibly has 3–4 friends that they know from their network, who just so happens to know a living President. At max, it would only take six separate introductions for me to have an encounter (however minimal that may be) with a President. However, after careful thought and consideration about how this idea can be challenged — I had a conversation with my mentor in which I mentioned that I don’t believe these degrees of separation exist anymore, and here’s why.
The Internet is an environment with “Zero” Degrees of Separation
I am currently reading The The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc Searls, which is about how customer relationship management systems (search Hubspot or Salesforce for examples) don’t truly help businesses have relationships with their clients/users. For this to occur, customers need their own Vendor Relationship Management Systems. In a chapter titled, “Net Pains,” Doc Searls quotes Craig Burton, a Senior Analyst in Kuppinger Cole, who describes the Internet as:
“…[A] world we might see as a bubble. A sphere…The distance between any two points [within said sphere] is functionally zero, and not just because they can see each other, but because nothing interferes with [the] operation between any two points (page 102, Searls).”
Because of the Internet, if I want to contact let’s say Barack Obama, I can now simply go on Twitter and tweet at him directly. Sure I have to go through the buffer of his online communications team, but the and the chances of me getting an actual response from him is dismal, but, if I wanted to contact any other person in the world — I still have the ability to do so if they have access to the Internet.
Why I think this concept is important
The majority of us now rely to some degree, on the Internet and its protocols for our work. The ubiquity that the Internet provides for us to communicate conveniently with anyone, about anything, regardless of geography is astounding. It is what allows us to do business across the globe and spread ideas and content like wildfire. However, I still believe that we have continued to hold onto old self-imposed social limitations regarding whom we think we can and cannot contact. We can speak to anyone we want today; that is the main point here.
The answer to any question or request is automatically “no” if it isn’t asked.
Keeping this in mind, I believe we should begin thinking about all the new opportunities we are not currently exploring — regarding meeting new people and exposing ourselves to new ideas and sharing our own thoughts with the world. Let this article serve as a short rant that should compel you to create a strategic list of at least five people you would love to talk to about anything — and then, contact them! Then, make a new list every week or so, and repeat this process. Evaluate what messages and requests get responses and which don’t. Don’t falter, and keep trying. You will be amazed at what might happen with a little persistence.
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