Why Dunbar’s number is MORE relevant today than it’s ever been

In February, I wrote a post about Dunbar’s number–the theory that explains how we can only maintain strong ties to a limited amount of people. In that post, I mentioned that some have claimed that social media makes Dunbar’s number irrelevant because of its ability to connect us to others around the world with unprecedented scale and ease.

My strong belief, however is that the opposite is true. Social media has made Dunbar’s number more relevant than it’s ever been. Why? It’s simple: in addition to making it easier to connect with those we don’t yet know, social media (and other technology tools) increase expectations about how available we are to our existing connections. In other words, because family, friends and professional contacts can reach us more easily, it’s expected that we connect with them more often.

As I mentioned in my February post, the one thing that hasn’t changed as a result of social media is the number of hours in a day. Just as we did pre-social media, we still have 24 hours to work, eat, sleep, groom ourselves, clean our homes, commute, and do everything else we need to do. At a time when we’re expected to be more available to those most important to us, that means less time for the people who matter a little less. As a result, it’s clear that today, just as its always been, our best investment in time spent with people is more quality time with those we already know, not a larger quantity of relationships to manage. Just as it is with some many other things, less is more–even when it comes to people.

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One Response to Why Dunbar’s number is MORE relevant today than it’s ever been

  1. Eric says:

    Good thoughts Anthony… I agree completely. I’ve been trying to apply the same principle on Twitter. I want the people I follow on twitter to actually represent something – to be people I actually know, or people I respect / want to hear from, etc. As a result, I’ve reduced my follower count from over a 1,000 to right around 350. It has transformed how I use twitter.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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