Six Degrees of Separation


Stanley Milgram, a former Assistant Professor of Social Psychology from Harvard University, said that you are no more than six steps away from anyone and anything in the world: this is the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, proposed almost 50 years ago.

This means that between you and me there are just five or less people connecting us, with one person somewhere knowing both the friend of your friend, and the friend, doctor or other acquaintance of my friend: it’s a small world.

Going one step further, it would mean that we are all linked with the lives of everyone else by one of six degrees, whether they are our best mate or the most distant person from our social circles. This includes every singer, comic genius and internet sensation, the first person you see after reading this post, and every journalist, editor and the people in the news stories.

The social bonds between us create surprising and extraordinary chains of people who otherwise share no connection, and they unite us all in a way in which we can relate to each other.

Naturally, we all share basic needs for nutrition, breathing, and the ability to sense the environment around us, amongst the other requirements of all living things – movement, reproduction, growth and excretion of waste.

Horrifyingly, within each one of our individual chains of six people, it is probable that one does not have access to safe drinking water, one has adversely affected health due to either high blood pressure or physical inactivity, and one suffers from hunger and malnutrition.

Further, it is likely that one person in a chain within England will be at risk of flooding, within the developing world will be the only one with internet access, and within a socially-linked chain of children in Australia will be affected by asthma.

As a result in human society we have concerns which affect us, whether the fundamental physiological needs for life, societal desires such as respect, relationships and health, or something else. And even those who you think are very different from you, whatever their individual concerns, share a common desire for a life that reflects their deeply-rooted values.

Remembering that we are all only a few steps away from each other gives us great motivation to tell our stories that are close to us emotionally and physically, strive to find common ground, and address our immediate concerns.

For example, climate change is not something we can easily grasp at the global level. But, for my friend with asthma, I can relate to her health by the air pollution caused by local traffic which is known to exacerbate her respiratory condition and climate change. Though we may be quite different in lifestyle, education, and age, our common interest is the health of each other and the environment where we live. Through sharing information and motivation about what we see and what we experience, we can push toward the thriving and healthy lives we both desire.

Though you may not live in the same place, or think or act in the same way as the person most distantly connected to you, you are only a few steps from finding common ground, to relate and connect, and to address what matters to you most.

I invite you to take a look at our resources, share your stories, and take the conversation outdoors and offline to reach even the most distant people you could possibly imagine.

Thank you, and enjoy!



Related information:

BBC. 2014. KS3 Bitesize Science – Life processes Revision, Page 2. BBC, UK. (accessed July 2014). 

D’Amato, G., Bergmann, K. C., Cecchi, L., Annesi-Maesano, I., Sanduzzi, A., Liccardi, G., Vitale, C., Stanziola, A. & M. D’Amato. 2014. Climate change and air pollution. Allergo Journal International 23: 17-23.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs, and Environment Agency. 2014. Reducing the threats of flooding and coastal change. Government Digital Service, UK. (accessed July 2014).

Hamburger, S. 2014. Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry by James C. Nicholson (review). Journal of Sport History 141: 174-174.

Koohborfardhaghighi, S. & J. Altmann. 2014. How Variability in Individual Patterns of Behaviour Changes the Structural Properties of Networks. Active Media Technology 8610: 49-60.

Masoli, M., Fabian, D., Holt, S. & R. Beasley. 2004. Global burden of asthma: a report prepared for the global initiative for asthma. In: Jensen, M. E., Gibson, P. G., Collins, C. E., Hilton, J. M., Latham-Smith, F. and L. G. Wood. 2013. Increased sleep latency and reduced sleep duration in children with asthma. Sleep and Breathing 17: 281-287 .

Sethi, S. 2012. Why and how do we engage? Simran Sethi at TEDxCibeles. YouTube, USA. (accessed July 2014).

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2005. Understanding Knowledge Societies: In twenty questions and answers with the Index of Knowledge Societies. United Nations: New York.

United Nations Department of Public Information. 2010. Millenium Development Goals. Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.

World Health Organisation. 2009. Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. WHO Press: Switzerland. pp.11 

Yasser Daraghmi, E. & S. Yuan. 2014. We are so close, less than 4 degrees separating you and me! Computers in Human Behaviour 30: 273-285.



  1. […] in with your individual lifestyle, see our Twitter account for local opportunities, and be sure to amplify your impact by sharing your experiences with friends, family and the […]


  2. […] • Six degrees of separation. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: