Isn’t it amazing how the choices we make can lead us on such unexpected journeys? That’s what happened to me with Six Degrees. I started the group as research for my new novel, The Watcher. One of the themes I explore in the book is the way we are connected via the Internet. Facebook is a kind of Internet-in-miniature, which makes it the ideal place to examine this idea. So, at midday on the 28th November I started up the group, and invited all my friends to join. By the end of that day less than twenty people had joined, and I thought I was going to have to go back to the drawing board. By Day 4 things were looking more promising: we were up to 200 people. It was on Day 5 when things really got going. When I logged on to Facebook I was amazed to discover that the numbers had more than doubled in just twenty-four hours.
A week later, I logged on and, when I saw the numbers had jumped from 3,000 to 30,000, thought my eyes were playing tricks. The following day was our first six figure day – 141,000 new members joined up. The next 16 days were a complete rollercoaster ride. Sixteen six-figure days in a row! This was completely unprecedented! At times we were adding members at a rate of 3 every single second. For six days we were averaging 220,000 new members a day.
Day 13 was a real Red Letter Day. At 02:37 (UK time) we hit our first million. I remember sitting at my computer, hitting the Refresh button every few seconds and watching the numbers climbing ever closer to the magic million. When we finally got there the Wall suddenly flooded with messages of congratulations from all over the world – I hadn’t been the only one playing the Refresh game.
It was around this time I realised Six Degrees was more than just research for my new book. This was a truly international Internet phenomenon! Each day I was getting a load of emails from every corner of the globe. Most people just wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed the group; others had suggestions on how we could improve things. I read every single one... and did my best to reply to them all. I was touched that people took time out of their busy lives to write to me.
Inevitably, there had to be a slowdown. There was no way that we could keep growing at a rate of almost a quarter of a million a day. The slowdown started on Day 18, shortly after we hit two million. Since then there has been a gradual tailing off of the numbers joining. However, like a snowball rolling down a mountain, we’ve had enough momentum to take us past both the three million and the four million mark! Absolutely incredible!
It was never my intention to prove or disprove the Six Degrees theory – after all, I’m a writer not a scientist. I’m happy to accept that we’re all connected, and leave it up to people a lot cleverer than me to argue over the details. The idea behind Six Degrees Of Separation fascinates me – and judging by how many people joined the group, this is a fascination shared by millions of you across the globe.
Have I managed to contact every single person on Facebook? I like to think so, but unfortunately I have no way of knowing that for sure. The fact is that more than four million of you took the time to join, and that is nothing short of a miracle. As progress marches on, the world gets smaller. That’s inevitable. Whether we’re separated by six degrees or ten degrees or one degree isn’t important. What is important is the idea that we are connected.
All the best,