How many “friends”?

facebook-friends-graphicsFriendships

“I have 2000 friends on Facebook.”

Really?

How do you manage that?

Maybe you don’t.  According to some studies, the number of people you can really call “friend” is around 150 to 200. Your brain can’t process more than that. dievca considers Facebook friends, “acquaintances” (see more below). Those studies also say that the number of close friendships you can handle is much lower — around five.

Where did these numbers come from?

British anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar.

Dunbar argues that you can only keep friendships with about 150 people at any given time, because “this limit is a direct function of neocortex size, and … this in turn limits group size where stable interpersonal relationships can be maintained.” Dunbar says his number of 150 “refers to those people with whom you have a personalized relationship, one that is reciprocal and based around general obligations of trust and reciprocity.”

This number of 150 has appeared in different contexts as the most efficient working system for a Company, a Military Unit, Academics in a discipline’s sub-specialization, etc. The number has also been applied to anarchy and politics ~

Dunbar argues that this number has not, in fact, changed much throughout history and that it applies to social media on the web just as it does in real life. If anything, his research is supported by outlets such as Facebook—according to that site’s official figures, its average user has about 130 “friends.”

dunbar-breakdown-of-numbersThe theoretical circle of 150 is not a homogenous social group, Dunbar explains, but rather consists of four layers, or “Circles of Acquaintanceship,” which scale relative to each other by a factor of 3—an inner core of 5 intimates, and then successive layers of 15, 50 and 150. With each successive circle, the number of people included increases but the emotional intimacy decreases.

The concept of usefulness can impact inclusions or exclusion in the group of 150.

dievca applied this to her circle of friends and it seems to work well. she ended up with more people in the “15” circle and less in the 150 zone, but dievca is highly social. dievca also applied it to Master’s circle of friends and His ratios are slightly different, too. And as an introvert, His close circles are smaller.

What is the cut-off for Friend vs. Acquaintance?

remember-when-friendsPsychologist Mark Vernon, author of The Philosophy of Friendship, argues that everyone likes to be useful to their friends, but feeling that a friend is using you is the first sign of a relationship’s decline.

If you can connect online at any time – doesn’t that allow you to be closer to more people? Isn’t the quality of your friendships better?

The answer, according to Dunbar, is – No.  Why?  Those connections are missing something very important: Touch.

We’ve all seen David Attenborough-narrated footage of primates picking fleas out of each other’s necks to create social bonds. For all our greater sophistication of language and communication, we still overwhelmingly need that too.

“Just the way you casually touch someone on the arm or the shoulder when you’re having a chat with them is so important,” he says.

“It triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, and it’s these that create this sense of warmth and calmness and contentedness with whoever you’re doing it with.”

We may be connecting more verbally, but without the act of touch – the quality of those connections are superficial.  And if you are spreading yourself thin, across a range of Friends/Acquaintances online – you don’t have as much time and attention to spend with your core groups.  The quality of your Relationships may be deteriorating and you may be feeling the lack without knowing why.  Remember, you have 2000 friends on Facebook! 

Please note that humans are always evolving, this might not be a bad thing, but…

Per Dunbar, “Words are slippery, a touch is worth a 1,000 words any day.”

Pieces gathered from Psychology Today, webmd, esquire.com, the New Yorker, wikipedia

facebook-toilet

dievca is not a big user of Facebook, she apparently has 190 friends – but has never sent a friend request because she doesn’t know how. she doesn’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but she figures that no one really cares a poop about what is going on in her Life except for her top 5. And those people she talks to face-to-face or on Skype.

Just for fun from Wikipedia:

Popularisation

  • Malcolm Gladwell discusses the Dunbar number in his popular 2000 book The Tipping Point. Gladwell describes the company W. L. Gore and Associates, now known for the Gore-Tex brand. By trial and error, the leadership in the company discovered that if more than 150 employees were working together in one building, different social problems could occur. The company started building company buildings with a limit of 150 employees and only 150 parking spaces. When the parking spaces were filled, the company would build another 150-employee building. Sometimes these buildings would be placed only short distances apart. The company is also known for the open allocation company structure.
  • The number has been used in the study of virtual communities, especially MMORPGs, such as Ultima Online, and social networking websites, such as Facebook (Dunbar himself did a study on Facebook in 2010) and MySpace.
  • The Swedish tax authority planned to reorganise its functions in 2007 with a maximum 150 employees per office, referring to Dunbar’s research.
  • In 2007, Cracked.com editor David Wong wrote a humour piece titled “What is the Monkeysphere?” explaining Dunbar’s number.
  • In the 2012 novel This Book is Full of Spiders, also by David Wong, the character Marconi explains to David the impact Dunbar’s number has on human society. In Marconi’s explanation, the limit Dunbar’s number imposes on the individual explains phenomena such as racism and xenophobia, as well as apathy towards the suffering of peoples outside of an individual’s community.

4 Comments on “How many “friends”?”

  1. Pelelotus says:

    Sometimes people have lots of Facebook friends for purely egotistical reasons (look how popular I am). It should be noted that the world we present on social media is a glorified, edited of what is really happening. X

    • dievca says:

      Very true — there have been issues of suicide because people thing the FB offerings are the only reality. People aren’t going to post the “crappy” day details. So, it’s a one-sided story.

  2. Hahaha I like the last cartoon with the flush (hinting also on my opinion regarding social media) 🙂


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