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Six Degrees of LinkedIn Separation

In 2014, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature called “How You’re Connected” which allowed users to see details about the relationship between two connections that may not be in your network. For example, you could click and compare two people which would then show if they went to school together or were once coworkers or if they share a lot of connections because they live in the same area. This feature provided further insight for users on how they can leverage and augment their current professional/LinkedIn network. Having recently applied to full time jobs and networked both in person, over email/phone and through LinkedIn, this feature would have been extremely useful for breaking the ice with recruiters and current employees of companies of interest. Providing a “How You’re Connected” that is far more detailed than a simple connection chain from 3rd-1st degree connections would allow for more meaningful interactions with non-connections and take away from the fake and insensitive connotation that is often associated with networking. As an added note, I referred to this tool in the past tense as LinkedIn has since removed it and no longer even lists your chain of connections for 3rd degree connections.


This tool involves multiple kind of networks and relationships. LinkedIn is a social network that was established to assist in the creation of a recorded and tangible professional network. The addition of this tool made it easier for LinkedIn users to analyze their own graph of connections by making it more clear who is a strong relationship and who is a weak relationship within their own and other professional networks. This tool illustrated the Triadic Closure Principle and the Strong Triadic Closure Property by providing specific explanations of how users are connected that makes it easier to infer whether external connections are strong or weak relationships. It is very hard to look at a connection on LinkedIn and determine how they are connected or how strong their connection is by looking at their mutual connections if they have a smaller network. Those with sparser professional networks could be analyzed through a lens of “how valuable are each of your connections” as opposed to assuming that “many connections makes you valuable” from a networking perspective. Looking on the Internet, I could only find documentation that the feature was removed, but no articles truly explaining why it was removed. Determining why this extra, seemingly useful functionality was not carried on with LinkedIn’s recent update would be an interesting investigation.


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September 2018