Dunbar: People limited to 150 friends, despite Facebook
Dunbar’s number is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable relationships. Relationships where an individual knows who each person is, and how those people relate each other. There is no precise value for Dunbar’s number, but it’s usually set to 150 and our brains just can’t handle more.
The advent of social networking sites has raised a question, if this number could be higher due to support from technology. Seems like a fair hypothesis.
Professor Dunbar set out to check that. Initial result show that people whit lots of friends maintain close relationships with only a small fraction of those. The Sunday Times quoted Dunbar:
The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world.
Another result from the study shows that women network better than men.
There is a big sex difference though … girls are much better at maintaining relationships just by talking to each other. Boys need to do physical stuff together.
Well, I quess we already knew that, but this suggest that women have a competitive advantage in an environment where more and more business is being done through digital channels and social networking. Combining that with the fact that women rule the social web makes me wonder what’s left fof men?
When thinking about the current state of social technology I still wonder if it can be made more helpful for maintaining bigger or tighter networks. My phone helps me to remember hundreds of phone numbers and even with that information I am able to remember the connections between different people. What would happen if the developers of Facebook or other social networks would singlemindedly focus on helping to increase the Dunbar’s number in their network. Would we perceive that social networking site as better, friendlier?
Image credit Sanja Gjenero.