London, Aug 3 : While it is popularly believed that everyone on the planet is linked by a string of six acquaintances, a new US research study has found that the real figure is closer to seven. It was the 1993 film 'Six Degrees of Separation' starring Will Smith and Donald Sutherland that popularized the notion that all people can be connected to each other by a small string of relationships.
The theory holds that you are one degree of separation from everyone you know, two degrees from everyone they know and so on, reports the Telegraph.
Carried out by Microsoft researchers, the study monitored 30 billion instant messages (stripped of their contents) transmitted by 180 million people all over the world during a single month.
The analysis revealed that most of these people were separated from everyone else using the messaging system by an average of 6.6 relationships.
However, some connections were far more distant, with one pair separated by 29 strangers.
Instant messaging, a text conversation feature offered by some big web providers, allows two or more people to exchange rapid messages in real time.
The researchers, Eric Horvitz and Jure Leskovec, also found that conversations between a man and a woman occurred more frequently than those between people of the same sex.
And when men and women chatted to each other they sent more messages and took more time, suggesting relationships that were more important.