Do Social Networks Add Friends?

Would you agree with Oxford Scholar, Robin Dunbar, that brainpower limits the size of your social network? Master connectors do better than most. Team building expert, and friend, Mike Cardus sent me an interesting article today to show how many friends most people engage online. Dunbar’s research concluded that the size of a human brain allows stable networks of about 150, which became well known as the Dunbar number.

Most closer communities, it seems, tend to organize around this Dunbar number. What advantage does it offer? Dunbar observed that people know one another better, and leadership is less bureaucratic.

Other experts, Russell Bernard and Peter Killworth increased the typical networking number to about 300 for best social groups. I’d be interested to see if social networks expands or decreases interpersonal intelligence, or tone skills. What do you think?

Either way, research confirms that people usually favor a handful in any social circle with whom they discuss important issues, according to Peter Marsden at Harvard.

The Economist reported that on average people carry a network on Facebook of about 120, and men tend to interact frequently with about four people, while the average woman interacts more with six.  When social networks increased to 500 friends, men left comment for 17 friends compared to 26 friends engaged for women.

Interestingly, the article concluded that people in online networks are not so much engaging others as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer core” who aren’t necessarily inside any inner core. People tend to advertise themselves to their social networks – research suggests – while keeping smaller circles for more meaningful interactions with very few.

So why the huge number race we see on Twitter? In The Twitter Numbers Game, Bill Nickerson offers an interesting look at numbers that affect our networks online.  Does this research support your social network patterns or plans?

2 Comments

  1. Wally Bock says:

    I’ve always liked the definition of your social network as “the number of people you know by face and name and who know you.” Defined that way, the Dunbar number seems pretty accurate.

    When you change the definition to “the number of people you connect with frequently,” technology has made it so the number has virtually no upper limit.

    Wally Bocks last blog post..Three Star Leadership’s 1000th Post

  2. Arianna Colt says:

    An interesting post and I am certain that there are facts surrounding the issues because nobody has the time to keep up with everyone and just end up with a tribe of about a handful that you are close to

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