My friends and I have a running joke. To give you the formal name of this joke would be to reveal who I am – and while it’s not a huge secret, and I’m sure some of you who don’t already know me IRL (In Real Life) could easily figure it out if you really wanted to, I’m not going to make it so obvious, either, as to be shrouded with some anonymity when one is a blogger is just, well, safer.
Anyway, so I’ll call it this: Six Degrees of SOC (“SOC” being a moniker for “The Social Commentator”). It’s not actually six degrees most times. It’s more like two degrees. However, this title is more catchy.
It’s a little freaky at times. Like, for example, the guy I went on a date with a few weeks ago who happened to ask my good friend on a date as well – and he had no idea we knew one another. Actually, she put it together when I recounted my date to her. Or the time when I discovered two friends – who I knew from completely different spheres of my life – were dating, and they discovered they both knew me because she was showing him some photographs. Then there is how my coworker’s best friend in high school was one of my good friends from college. Or, how my other coworker WENT to college with me – and I had no idea she worked there when I started. One of my classmates last year knew a guy I used to work with back in my Journalism Days. That same guy lived in the same building as another good friend of mine, and I ran into him when I visited my friend for his birthday.
There are more. Just last night, I met someone who I’m connected to not one, not two, but in THREE different ways, through three different people that I know through three completely separate facets of my life. And, I suppose these incidents isolated are not so interesting. However, as my friend J pointed out to me last night:
“You have [these coincidences happen] more than any human being ever.”
As part of my Lenten resolutions, I am reading lots of nonfiction. Currently, I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, his work on how social epidemics occur in society. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m about 1/3 of the way through – I hope to finish it by the weekend), but the first chapter discusses “The Law of the Few,” or the three types of people who get the ball rolling, if you will, on social epidemics: The Connectors, The Mavens, and The Salesmen.
Connectors, are, of course, people who seem to know everyone. Gladwell said these types of people network not for any deeper reason other than they enjoy the company of new people. They’re constantly expanding their circles of friends and acquaintances because they know that cultivating this social capital is, if nothing else, fun. And, beyond being fun, it can be beneficial in the future.
I realized that, I do that. I’ve done that since high school. I’m always looking for ways to make new friends and meet new people. I have three or four distinct circles of friends in Albany, who are decidedly separate from one another. I have more if you expand to my friends who don’t live nearby, and more still if you include casual acquaintances. I realized, while reading this chapter, that I’ve done this for years, and the reason Six Degrees of SOC happens to me so often, is because most people do not do this.
Of course, when I encounter another Connector, then the coincidences happen at an even greater rate. Or, if they don’t, than the two of us just feed off of one another’s connections – in this case, my friend D comes to mind. In fact, I think D and I get along so well in part because we’re both social, friendly people who are always looking to meet new people and make new friends.
According to Gladwell, as one gets older, these “connections” become more frequent. As much as I joke that sometimes it is a curse, I kind of enjoy seeing how small and interwoven my world is, of my own creation. The only way the connections can become more frequent is if I meet more people and make new friends – and really, how can that be a curse?