Does (Network) Size Matter?

My friend Eric Stegemann was kind enough to share a recent WSJ article touting a phenomenon you may or may not have heard about: the Dunbar effect. So named after the British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, who first proposed it. It’s a phenomenon he and I had referenced on a few occasions during some of our meetups.

The gist of the Dunbar effect states that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom you and I can reasonably maintain stable social relationships. About 150, give or take.

(Video: Managing Productivity Amongst the Noise)

Mr. Dunbar’s number is the basis of my video above. The vid is the first of a series in a new online course I’m putting together for release next month spanning the “Big 5” social platforms. And, although the vid above uses the Twitter network as its subject, the implied challenges for you and me as we manage all the friends, followers, contacts, and visitors we each have via the social sphere really applies to any network — be it online (URL) or in real life (IRL).

The question is, given that our orbitomedial prefrontal cortex (as mentioned in the WSJ article) seems to limit our relationships to about 150, what value then can you and I glean from the size of our social networks? Do the additional thousands of followers + friends + contacts + visitors we’ve amassed benefit us at all if it isn’t reasonable to expect that we can maintain a realistic “relationship” with each of them?

What do you think?