Tuesday, February 02, 2016

6 degrees of separation

The current world population is estimated at 7.4 billion people. It is amazing that any 2 given people might know each other. (The math is a little complex, but you can take a look here and here). It is really amazing when the world of so many inhabitants gets really small, really quickly.

In the summer of 1993, I went on a 6 week journey to Israel with my youth group. I was 17 and meeting other high school students from across the US, with me being the only one in my group from the Chicago area. These were some amazing connections that I made, and with the advent of the digital age, I was able to reconnect with a lot of old friends recently. One friend that I made is named Josh. He was from eastern New York state, went to Cornell, served in the Army, and now is a dentist.

Flashback to 1997 and I am in college. I am busy taking coursework for biology and education and singing my heart out in the Varsity Men's Glee Club and the co-ed a cappella group, No Strings Attached. In this group, I made some amazing connections, and because of email, at the time, and then social media, we were able to keep in touch over the years and even have a reunion concert. One of our directors, Carrie, was from Virginia, graduated with a degree in Music Education, was on Broadway in Sister Act, and is currently earning her MFA in Musical Theater Performance at Penn State.

What really caught me off guard is when I reconnected with Josh through Facebook, I noticed that I just missed his birthday. When I scrolled through the well-wishes on his page, I saw that my friend Carrie, Virginia, U of I, Broadway, Penn State, wished my friend from my Israel trip, Josh, New York, Cornell, Army, Dentist, a very happy birthday. Their friend in common through Facebook was me, and I did not introduce them...

This got me thinking about how I might take for granted the power of my PLN and how connected I am. I take it as an every day occurrence. Via Twitter, I am directly connected to approximately 2400 people. Via LinkedIn, I am directly connected to 754 people, but I am linked to close to 400,000 people in this network. I am constantly reminded that it is not what I know, it is what the people that I am connected to know AND who THEY know! It is amazing to this connected-ness at my fingertips to have someone help me with an issue, search for information, or challenge my thinking to help me grow, and vice-versa. I continue to work with my departments and share this ability to connect and share, and some of them have caught on and are sharing their experiences as well.

When I talk to my students about the information they are sharing, I remind them of the need to be cognizant of what they are sharing and with whom they are sharing. I tell them that they are writing their resumes and they don't even realize it. I try to convince them that what they do now matters and can have unforeseen repercussions, either positive or negative. You never know what might show up in a Google search during a job interview or application process. You never know who might know someone that knows you, for better or for worse...

I certainly never would have guessed that an Army dentist from New York state would know and be connected to my a cappella director from Virginia. I am glad they both liked me. :)