Saturday, January 30, 2010

Facebook Friends

Is 150 the Limit?

How did I miss this story in The New Scientist, back in April 2008? This researcher posits that we can only maintain 150 relationships.

Frankly, I think that number may be a bit high. Or maybe I’m distinguishing “friendships” from “relationships.”

At any rate, I am now seeking gently to decline people who want to “friend” me on Facebook, if I don’t actually know them.

Here’s the story from The New Scientist:

Is 150 friends the human limit?

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar calculated in 1992 that the human brain's size should lead to our social groups naturally averaging at around 150. What does that mean in an era of online social networking, ponders one blogger.

One good point he makes is that we have always been capable of remembering many more contacts than that.

The tendency to converge on the 150 number is really a product of our not being able to maintain active relationships with more people than that, rather than a limit to our mental database of all possible contacts.

So do social networking sites and technologies that make it easier to communicate allow us to brush Dunbar's number aside?

According to the founder of Facebook, in this video, his site's users average number of friends is "like around 125 or 130 or so." He says the closeness of that figure and Dunbar's number is evidence Facebook friends are as valid as real-life ones. But you might expect him to say that.

As for the blogger I linked to above, he concludes that the technological future of socialising will in the end only change what we do as far as "Human Hardware" allows.

That seems sensible. Yet given the history of social diversity and upheaval in humanity's short history, those limits are not likely to be very tight.

That makes some sense to me.


Blogger Ann said...

Guess it depends on how you define "friends" -- I know all the people in my friend list to one degree or another -- if we were in the same "real" space we would probably have coffee. A few I share with more deeply - and know well. Maybe it has to do with being an extrovert.

2/03/2010 10:50 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

You're wise then, Ann. I have some Facebook "friends" whom I don't know at all. In this age, that's making me a little nervous.

On the other hand, some are there with whom I've become friends thanks to this wonderful world of blogging, e-mail, & Facebook.

It's a mixed blessing, I reckon.

2/03/2010 2:52 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I usually don't accept as friends those whom I do not know at all and who only have a couple common friends -- usually I write to the common friend to ask about the person. Have gained some wonderful new friends in that process.

2/03/2010 2:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Very smart. Why didn't I think of that??

2/03/2010 3:20 PM  

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