Six Degrees of Separation

17 Sep

This fascinating BBC documentary manages to cohesively explore the notion of ‘networks’ in essentially every facet of existence.

From the origin of disease…

to every actors’ connection with Kevin Bacon…

to the intriguing unity of firefly signals;

the ‘6 degrees of Separation’ theory is revealed in all its complexity.

The documentary itself is very well structured, woven beneath the typical interviews and to-camera-pieces of professionals and researches directly involved in the study of the theory, is a narrative hook – strangers must try to get a package across the world by only using 6 ‘moves’. Like some kind of intricate game of chess, the players move across the chessboard of life, utilising every piece that lies in their path – hoping this will link to another. Tense music that builds occasionally to triumphant and climactic points helps punctuate the greatness of the 6 degrees concept, typical use of computer/sciency sound effects are used to create a sense of genuine methodicalness and reliability of the theory. The narrator’s voice is present when need be, but allows the researchers to do the majority of the talking – which allows the audience to be fully engaged in their eager search to validate the theory.

Ultimately the findings are quite astounding and carry great possibilities for understanding diseases, the animal kingdom and human connection itself. Personally, I find the closeness of the relational world very encouraging. If you play your cards right, perhaps it isn’t so hard to grab an interview with that incredible company you’d like an internship at…or perhaps – though tricky business requiring a lot of clever communication work – it’s not that impossible to acquire a meeting with such-and-such a famous person, who could prove your break into a very competitive industry.

I suppose it makes a lot of sense, this 6 Degrees thing, for the amount of people you are connected to, is raised exponentially as you go higher and higher up the chain. An article in the UK Guardian raises an interesting point [see full article here] which I actually interpret as having potentially grave consequences…

 “That may reduce a degree or two: Barack Obama already has well over a million Facebook friends.”

Yes, I suppose it’s incredibly comforting, and a multitude of possibilities open up when we realise that we’re only 6 connections away from J.K. Rowling, Bob Dylan, Obama, Wes Anderson…however the invention of Facebook and arguably, the trivialisation and falsification of real human connection, may in fact be distancing humanity – at least in the Western World – rather than bringing it closer together. For the 6 Degrees Theory to be of any benefit in a relational sense (i.e. such and such a person aims to get in contact with a stranger who can help them in this or that way, through following a series of connections) the original connections have to be relational! And for someone to be willing to aid or help out, or indeed, communicate in real life…they need to be better acquainted than one of Obama’s million facebook friends.


Image Sources:

Fireflies =

Kevin Bacon =

Disease =




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