A Few Degrees of Separation

Learning how to use the internet changed my life forever. The limits of my social interactions grew beyond my elementary school to millions of internet users. This is the story of how in the last few months, I’ve encountered many people that helped me realize the power of the internet.

*Disclaimer: All Names Mentioned In This Article Have Been Changed To Protect Peoples Real Life Identities

It All Started With a Video Game…

“Did You Check Back Site?” Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Image by Reddit User __tommy__

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), a multiplayer first-person shooter that focuses on teammate interaction and cooperation. While the numbers aren’t exact, around 29 million copies of CS:GO have been sold in the game’s short lifetime, making CS:GO one of the best selling PC games of all time. Two factors that contributed to CS:GO’s success are its low $15 price tag and the fact that it can run on practically any PC. These two factors give CS:GO the upper hand over other first person shooters. Why did I feel the need to tell you this information? To show just how many people this game allows you to play with (not at one time, of course, that’d be insane).

My First Time

During the summer of 2016, I played a lot of CS:GO. I played this game from 7:00 PM (19:00) to 3:00 AM (3:00) every day. One day, while participating in a 10 player versus 10 player game of “Bomb Defusal”, I casually dropped the name of the state that I live in, Pennsylvania. Another player that was in my match responded that he also lives in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a relatively large state, so meeting another Pennsylvanian isn’t uncommon. I asked the player where they were from, to which they replied “Downingtown, PA”. I frequently visit Downingtown since that where my robotics team meets. I bonded with the player over our love of Downingtown, and then never spoke to him again (although we did add each other as friends, he just never plays CS:GO anymore). This was a neat enough occurrence, however, it didn’t mean much at the time.

Downingtown, PA | Image from Google Street View

A few months later I met a guy name Nick through my friend David. Nick had an account on the gaming social network and game marketplace “Steam so we added each other. While checking out Nick’s profile on Steam, I came across a message that notified me Nick and I shared a mutual friend. I click the message and found out that Nick and the player I had met a few months ago knew each other through Steam. When I asked Nick about this player, Nick told me that the two were actually good friends in real life as both go to the same school. This new knowledge blew my mind and for the first time made me rethink everything I understood about how the internet connects people.

It Happened Again

Months pass and I meet several more Pennsylvanians through CS:GO, however, none of them were as closely linked to me as the original player I discussed (who hasn’t logged onto Steam for 70 days now). During the Winter Break of 2016–2017, I once again resorted to playing CS:GO in my free time. While playing, I met a player named Ray. Usually, I don’t check other player’s Steam profiles unless I am going to add them, however, I checked Ray’s profile just out of curiosity. Ray had his location set as Westport, CT, a town I know very well. When my robotics team traveled to far away tournaments like the 2016 World Finals, I met some people from a robotics team based in Westport. I asked Ray if he knew anything about the team. Turns out, Ray was the brother of an old team member. I checked the team’s website and his brother can be found in the team Alumni section.

Another One

After the February of 2017, I began to stop playing CS:GO. Instead, I would begin to switch between playing other games such as Grand Theft Auto V and Rust. Eventually, I would transition back into playing CS:GO in April. After regaining the skill I lost from my CS:GO absence, I decided to join a CS:GO Competitive Team. I signed up for a website called TeamFind and entered my CS:GO stats. Over the course of the following week, I had 3 teams contact me about joining them. I checked to see which was the most legitimate and tried out for a spot on the team. After making the team, I checked the Steam profiles of my fellow teammates. One team member, Patrick, had his location set to “Pennsylvania”. I found that interesting and scrolled down to see if we had any mutual friends outside of the team. We did have one mutual friend who I know in real life, named Mark. Mark used to go to my school but transferred to a different local high school about two years ago. I contacted Mark to ask how he knew Patrick and they happen to go to the same school. This places Mark’s location within a 5-mile radius of me. Here’s the rundown on everything that went into making this scenario possible:

Two total strangers with a mutual friend that all live in the same town who play the same game joined the same team using the same website that has over 300,000 users and over 34,000 teams. Plus, this team of 5 people was already made up of 3 guys who all go to school with each other in California.

30 new teams emerged on TeamFind in the last 5 hours. CS:GO has a daily average of around 380,000 players. This entire scenario absolutely baffles me and I still don’t think I’ll ever top it.

In Conclusion

The scenarios I have pointed out in this article go to show how mutual friends can connect you to the stranger you are talking to on the other side of your computer screen. I myself can name tons of famous YouTubers that I am connected to in just four steps. The initial idea of the “Six Degrees of Separation” states that there is always a six step connection between any two people. Today, there are probably only four or five degrees of separation thanks to the internet. The chance of any one of these scenarios happening is incredibly low, let alone all three of the scenarios happening to the same person. Maybe I’m just incredibly lucky, or maybe the internet really is connecting everyone in mysterious ways.