It’s not about size, it’s what you do with it

It’s not the size of your connected network that counts, it’s how you interact with them. At least, I think it is…

Social media should be just that – social. Dunbar’s Number suggests that we can only maintain a maximum of 230 stable social relationships at any one time, yet many Twitter users (for example) maintain thousands of followers.

Assuming that each one Tweets once a day, that’s about one Tweet a minute. That’s one hell of a lot of information to take in and interact with.

In fact, according to Dunbar’s Number, impossible (at least in any meaningful way).

So, to be meaningful and stable, should we limit the number of people we follow or the number of blogs we read? By extension of Dunbar’s Number, this would give us the greatest opportunity to interact fully, because we’d be able to give the larger parts of our attention to each member of our community.

How would the social media sphere look if this was the case? And would it increase the level of meaningful interaction?

Would it simply limit information flow and spread?

And how would one decide who’s in and who’s out?

Or do we simply disregard the Number, follow and friend more and more, doing the best we can with a burgeoning social set in the full knowledge that we can’t keep up with all of them?

If anyone’s got the answers, or at least a theory, please share below – I would love to hear it!


2 thoughts on “It’s not about size, it’s what you do with it

  1. I would argue that most Twitter connections do not constitute a “relationship” in any meaningful way. Where Dunbar is most in force is on Facebook, where you have lots of people that you do in fact care about intersecting with people you care less about. There are new social networks cropping up that capitalize on Dunbar, limiting your total connections to 50 (path.com being the most recent example). I don’t know that the concept of artificially limiting your connections makes a lot of sense, but as more and more people want to connect with one another, some way to separate wheat from chaff is in order. I suspect we’ll see a lot more usage of Facebook groups and Twitter lists for that purpose – for now.

  2. Hi Jay

    Thanks for commenting!

    I would agree – Twitter isn’t necessarily a medium to form meaningful social relationships, although it theoretically has that capability.

    I’ll check out path.com – starting to get very interested in any practical applications of Dunbar within marketing theory – thank you for the heads up!

    Out of interest, is there research on the mean number of connections for professional sites, such as LinkedIn? Do these tend to follow the Dunbar theory more than general sites such as FB and Twitter?

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