My cousin's barber's vet's ... - Greg Gelpi

Shy as I am and addicted to work, my roommate invited me to join Friendster, an online community, in an effort to push me out of my shell.

Through a mix of desperation, curiosity and utter boredom, I perused the Web site and gave it a go.

The Web site demonstrates a theory portrayed in Fred Schepisi's movie Six Degrees of Separation, a must-see flick with Will Smith in a chop shop ordered plot, in the same vein as Pulp Fiction for its non-linear approach and unmatched in wit and philosophy.

The theory, as the movie proposes, is that everyone in the world is linked by no more than six degrees.

Anyone I know personally would count as one degree of separation, while anyone they know would be two degrees from me and so on.

Just pick a royal figure, a Hollywood starlet or someone hunkered down in the Australian outback and you can trace your connections to that person through a short series of relationships, the theory goes.

It's strangely comforting all the while stirring a sense of paranoia that the Disney classic "It's a Small World After All" may ring a bit true.

The knowledge of such an intimate multitude of millions makes it a little more difficult to swerve in front of someone or feel lost in the masses.

Entering my relevant information and limiting my search greatly to test the online community, about a dozen matches popped on to the screen from the Jonesboro area.

With a click of the button, I let the magic of the gerbils inside my computer calculate how these seemingly random strangers were connected to me.

About half of those who lived within a few miles of my apartment could be traced to me through a series of five relationships or less. Detailing the lineage of friendships and associations, the site explained how the two of us "know" each other and through what friends we share mutual friends.

Born, raised and educated in Louisiana, I ventured to Georgia knowing one person in the area, but the Web illustrated the web of people that I do know, albeit not directly or personally.

Tinkering with the Web site gave credibility to my own theory that despite the vastness of the world and multitudes of people and their problems, we're all in this thing together.

Driving around (and around some more since I lack any sense of direction) I often glance at the driver in the lane next to mine and wonder.

That person in his own little air-conditioned cubby hole with his own ambiance of music has his own world.

The person has a set of work relationships and a set of social relationships, a set of daily habits and routines unto himself.

Despite this, there are certain similarities and even universalities between us. As theorized by Six Degrees of Separation and evidenced by Friendster, there may be concrete connections as well.

The concept seems to bring the world a little closer while also expanding the concept of what is a neighbor.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.