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?

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Comments (2)

  1. As usual Mel, you “get It”…and you are, by far, one of the finest “Communicators” in the Sphere…and that is why you, with 14 others, are part of my “Human Aggregator” Network (Exactly your point in this article I believe).

    About a year or so ago I sat in a room with a mutual friend of ours, Stacey Harmon, and she casually introduced the term “Human Aggregators”. her point was that this handful of her Social Media contacts were really gathering knowledge and sharing it on their Social Streams, which allowed Stacey to cut back on her research, because she “trusted” these peoples opinion. That evening I went home, set up my own Tweetdeck column of 15 “HA’s” and have never looked back!

    back then I was writing for Geek Estate Blog on Zillow and wrote this article…

    I really hope people are listening to what you say Mel, because you truly are an amazing Communicator…Keep it up!

    See ya Saturday


    • Mel

      “Human Aggregators” << I love that. And, yes, that was exactly my point in this article. For my part, I maintain a "Dunbar List" in each of my social networks. Like you, I've benefitted greatly in maintaining that short-list of folks with whom I continue developing deep-rooted relationships. And, I'm proud to have both you and Stacey in each of those lists. 🙂 See ya at our regular mastermind meetup this Saturday, my friend.

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