The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks

The Dunbar number is the result of a psychologist’s research 10 years ago, which concluded humans gravitate towards an upper limit of 150 meaningful relationships, usually far less. Key word, meaningful. Friends, as in real friends. Likes, as in really liking, and sharing as in, really sharing.

“For Dunbar, there’s a simple explanation for this: In the same way that human beings can’t breathe underwater or run the 100-meter dash in 2.5 seconds or see microwaves with the naked eye, most cannot maintain many more than 150 meaningful relationships. Cognitively, we’re just not built for it. As with any human trait, there are outliers in either direction—shut-ins on the one hand, Bill Clinton on the other. But in general, once a group grows larger than 150, its members begin to lose their sense of connection. We live on an increasingly urban, crowded planet, but we have Stone Age social capabilities. “The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us,” Dunbar has written. “Putting it another way, it’s the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks

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