In a time when more and more people report being lonely, some old research has resurfaced to indicate that even our seemingly unimportant or very casual friendships may mean more than we think. Not only does this mean that our friendly banter with our favorite barista could benefit us more than we think, but especially for those of us who are empaths, it also gives us an opportunity to consider how our own behavior affects those we come into contact with.

After all, “Everything you do has an impact,” as Paul Greiner puts it. “Who you are – that you are – actually matters. In an interconnected world (the only kind we have), our actions and the actions of others are inextricably linked- we are always and forever in a dance of mutual influence with those with whom we directly and indirectly participate.  It is the unavoidable reality of being social creatures, only magnified by an ever-increasingly complex and interwoven societal structure.  We matter to each other.” 

In 1973, Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor at Stanford University, published a paper entitled The Strength of Weak Ties. It went on to become one of the most influential sociology papers of all time. Until then scholars had assumed that an individual’s well-being depended mainly on the quality of relationships with close friends and family. Granovetter showed that quantity matters, too.

One way to think about any person’s social world is that you have an inner circle of people whom you often talk to and feel close with, and an outer circle of acquaintances whom you see infrequently or fleetingly. Granovetter named these categories “strong ties” and “weak ties”. His central insight was that for new information and ideas, weak ties are more important to us than strong ones.

Granovetter surveyed 282 Boston-based workers and found that most of them got their jobs through someone they knew. But only a minority got the job through a close friend; 84% got their job through those weak-tie relationships – casual contacts whom they saw only occasionally. As Granovetter pointed out, the people whom you spend a lot of time with swim in the same pool of information as you do. We depend on friendly outsiders to bring us news of opportunities from beyond our immediate circles – and so the more of those acquaintances we have, the better.


6 Degrees of Separation Study

In the late 1960s, a social experiment called small world hypothesis was done to prove that any two persons can be connected through a social network by 6 degrees of separation. This was done by successfully passing a message from one person to a target person through acquaintances of the people in the link. Although most of the links in the experiment failed to complete, the electronic version of this experiment as well as the online social networks today has proven that we can indeed reach out to almost anyone in the world through our contacts.

Consider Social Networking Groups & Sites for Now

In the age of the pandemic, social networking websites have are very helpful in getting connected to people, whether they’re friends or family or even just people sharing the same hobbies or interests. These online communities, including our Shine.Buzz Daily group, offer support, connection and human interaction at a time when it’s difficult to find it safely in real life.