one forwards, two back

For every degree of separation that technology has connected in the digital world, I’m starting to think that many of us are stepping one further away from those we know in the real one.

The six degrees of separation theory was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, then some decades later (hard to find an actual date from the reports freely available) sociologists proved a theory that if you spoke to enough people you were really only three degrees separated. The first degree is physical, the second emotional and the third spiritual.

So if the only thing that depicts the first degree is physicality, then arguably in our digitally connected, socially ‘always on’ world we could all be within two degrees of each other. That sounds quite nice in theory, the prospect of seeking, finding and establishing a new connection with people all over the world.

As someone who spends a lot of time in front of a screen because of my work, I make an effort to not look at my phone when I’m out and about and look up at what’s going on around me. From what I observe, as a society we have become latent in our socialising skills, too many of us are better at being who we are online that who we are in the real world.

Yesterday I overheard a conversation on the train; two girls, one had just dumped her boyfriend, the other was asking her how he’d taken it, she replied ‘I don’t think he knows, I just posted it on Facebook.’ I felt more sorry for her then I did for him, he dodged a bullet there whoever he is…

I’d love to be able to work out the ratio of degrees closer in the digital world v degrees further apart in the real one. Facebook published an article back in 2011 that outlined 4.74 degrees just on their platform and that’s old news now.

For all the time we spend looking down rather than up, what opportunities do we miss to connect to someone properly, physically? Not just your eyes across a crowded room malarkey, but getting to know the guy at the paper stand you pass every day and pick up your copy of Wired from, the couple who take their dog to the park when you do, the lady wearing that really nice dress you’d like to know where to buy.

Forget the rise of the robots, in this smartphone zombie era we’re turning into autobots ourselves.


Image by dodo91 found on – thank you!

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One thought on “one forwards, two back

  1. Stephen Oman says:

    “Smartphone zombie” – such a great phrase!

    I see it on my bus commute every day. Almost everyone has their head down looking at their phone and nobody even looks out the window at the world passing by.

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