A concept called Dunbar’s Number suggests that people can manage relationships with only 150 friends at a time. It is time for social networkers to rethink their boundaries
Anthropologist and Social Psychologists have long speculated the need for socializing and how it maneuvers our social fabric. There is, however, the law of diminishing marginal utility at play here to mark out an optimum limit for socializing, a tipping point beyond which one may not effectively stretch his affability. A theory relating this has suggested that the cognitive capacity of the human brain can only manage relationships with 150 friends at a time. Even though it is hard to quantify it as a strict standard in real world, people would unanimously concede that it will be exceedingly difficult for a regular person to expand his circle beyond that astronomical number. In fact, I find it a bit perplexing to imagine that some people may have those many friends, but that must be only me, for some of the modern Social butterflies have as many as 5000 friends. But that’s only friends in the Facebook terms, you cannot take that seriously, can you?
It doesn’t really matter how many friends you accept into your online communities: the number of people you actually interact with will stay constant.
Studies have shown, that people with poor perceived social standing and having doubt on their own capabilities are more likely to make a larger association. This stems from the fact that primates tend to stick around together for protection, while one staying aloof is in better control of himself and is more likely to act responsibly and confidently than the others who depend on each other in the group for direction. So the logic is, even though people love to flaunt their social standing with a staggering number of Facebook friends but the reality is that they’re likely to only maintain mental connection with a stipulated number of friends just like anyone else.
Social Networking is like attending the Sunday Mass. The entire village will attend, pray together, exchange niceties, share news and ideas; people will involve in common rituals yet they will remain mentally uninvolved and aloof. What they do is customary, its social obligation.
For myself, I find it difficult to remember so many names in the first place. How Facebook has helped me is by keeping such faces alive before me which would otherwise be conveniently forgotten. I do have a limited list of Facebook friends, and I edit it from time to time to sync the list to my actual life. Human connections arise not from superficial virtual thumbs-Up but from shared activities on common interests. While it is tormenting to spend a desolate life of alienation, it can be equally vexing to live a sham life of make-belief socializing.