With social media and our uber-connected world, how many people can we have in our social networks and still be familiar and stay close to? The number is known as Dunbar's Number, and it's 150.
In a recent NPR Radio Hour Podcast, Robin Dunbar talked about his studies that show the maximum number of people we can have in our life and still stay connected with, ends at 150. Within these circles are relationships with layers of increasing intensity and quality.
Your circle starts at the center with 5 of your closest friends; the next circle contains ten people, next 35, etc.
As the circles expand outwards, the connections are less intimate, and they add up to Dunbar's number, which is 150.
It turns out the science behind it has to do with the number of connections your brain can handle or keep regarding close relationships.
With the advent of social media, this number is still the same. The difference is when we have 500 friends, many of these friends are not close connections but on the peripheral. We usually have different reasons for keeping these connections like work, specific interests, networking, etc
When Dunbar analyzed Facebook behavior, he found most people still max out at 150 close connections, this pattern is seen by the likes, replies, posts and contacts that exist. The number of quality connections you can have on Facebook still max out at 150.
To me, this means we are using Facebook to nurture healthy relationships and keep in touch with other relevant people that we don't see as often. Also, the patterns and intensity of connection we have in real life are mimicked on social media networks.
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