Sushi and six degrees of separation.

Last night, I had dinner at a good all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Palatine, IL called Sushi Para. In addition to liking a good deal ($17.95, with a surcharge if you leave any food on your plate), it turns out my dinner companions and I had a few other things in common.

At the table were Darren Jay Williger, Carol Flammer, Mitch Levinson, and me.

You, along with me and nearly 100,000 other people, may follow Darren Williger on Twitter (@williger). He is an ex-DELL sales genius, new media evangelist, and content entrepreneur who owns and controls 100+ websites. He makes wine in his spare time.

Carol Flammer owns mRELEVANCE, an e-marketing, public relations and social networking company with an emphasis in real estate. She runs the Atlanta Real Estate Forum, which has 3,000+ pieces of content and posts new content three times a day. (Follower her @AtlantaPR and @FlammerPR.)

Mitch Levinson is managing partner of mRELEVANCE and works with Carol at FlammerPR (find him at @mRELEVANCE) and is the hardware/software half of the team. He is also a Realtor and has an MBA.

So, how did we find out we all knew each other from other places?

I met Carol last week at the New Media Atlanta event run by Matt Fagioli and Brad Nix, two Realtors/Conference managers who live in Atlanta. It was a great event, and I did some live blogging of the different speakers that day. I sat next to Carol in the back row and we got to talking about how she divides her time between Atlanta and Chicago. Since she was going to be in Chicago this week, we decided to meet for dinner on Tuesday night.

Carol and Darren met on Twitter. When Carol mentioned she was coming to Chicago for a conference, Darren suggested they get together. He lives near Sushi Para, eats there regularly and suggested it as a meeting place. At dinner, Darren and Mitch were talking and some commonalities emerged. They grew up in the same area and attended the same school. They’re exactly the same age (Happy 40th in a few weeks, guys) and today live within walking distance of each other. They had never met before last night, but it turns out they know people in common and may even have relatives in common.

I heard Mitch say that he went to Stevenson High School. He’s about the same age as some friends I have who went there, so I asked him about a few people. He didn’t know any of them. Finally, I said, do you know Ian, my brother-in-law? Not only did he know my sister and brother-in-law, but his wife and Ian are first cousins and he had dinner at their house with his family the week before! Even cooler, he was at a party I attended the year before – only we didn’t know each other then. We talked about how Ian’s mom makes the best candied chicken wings ever! (I will have to get the recipe and post it.)

Darren and I have content in common. I’ve written a bunch of books and Darren is looking to write his first book. I’m going to give him a hand and in exchange, he’ll share some of his Internet know-how.

Talk about a small world and six degrees of separation.

But the real lesson is that online social networking is only the beginning. After awhile, you’ve got to move it offline to grow and develop the relationships it offers. Online social networking can open up a whole new world of contacts and communication that would never have otherwise been possible. If I hadn’t been at the New Media Atlanta event, I’d have never met Carol (who had been following me for awhile on Twitter), Mitch or Darren. Life unfolds in strange ways.

Do you have a six degrees of separation story? Please share it here.

Miss My New Media Atlanta Blog?

Check out the minute-by-minute live blogging here.