Your Friend Limit Hasn’t Changed

As many of you know, I’m a student of human nature. I’m amazed at the things we continue to learn about the way in which our brain works. Most amazing is how slowly our brains evolve compared to the incredible pace at which our world is evolving, or shrinking, or whatever your favorite term is for change. We’re essentially using brains that are wired for our hunter-gatherer ancestors of 10,000 years ago in a world that measures things in nanoseconds. The result is a bevy of problems, disorders, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Take the phenomenon of social networking.

People are collecting friends on Facebook and other sites at an amazing rate. I myself have 331 connections on LinkedIn and another 141 on Facebook with very little overlap between the two. That says I have nearly 500 “friends”. Research that began in the 1990s shows that our brains just can’t handle that many friends. We’re limited to about 150 which is about the size of a hunter-gatherer village. The number hasn’t changed in 10,000 years! And Facebook isn’t going to change it. In fact, the average number of friends for a Facebook user is 130. My 141 fits inside the Dunbar Number.

So don’t worry about collecting more than about 150 friends whether they are live or virtual. After that, some of them stop being friends. They drift away, just like those hunter-gatherer villages split into separate clans and went their separate ways.


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