A few years ago, extrapolating from her study of primates, Oxford Unviersity-based anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that "the size of the human brain allows stable networks of about 148," The Economist reports. That's usually rounded off to 150 and called "the Dunbar number." The Economist interviewed Facebook's "in-house sociologist," Cameron Marlow, whose findings pretty much match up with the Dunbar number – an average of around 120 "friends," but ranging from a handful to thousands. I've long suspected that people whose friend lists are at the upper end of the spectrum are marketing more than being friends or, in the case of young adolescents, working through the "popularity contest" that school social scenes can represent. Here's the thing, though: Marlow told The Economist that the average person with 120 Facebook friends responds to the comments of (keeps in close touch with) only 7-10 friends (men at the low end of that range) – their "core network." Beyond that are the "casual contacts that people track more passively." The Economist ends with the observation that "humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever." Not that everybody uses social network sites to advertise themselves, but I do think the second half of that observation is exactly right. [See also the UK's NewScientist.com on "how social networking might change the world."]
NEW! Subscribe to our newsletter
Please sign up for our email newsletter. We publish about twice a month (you can easily unsubscribe if you need to).
NetFamilyNews – by Anne Collier
- What are we really seeing in the social media fishbowl?
- Spoiler alert: Kid loves teaching Twitter to Dad
- At the IGF: Youth participation = greater youth e-safety
- Enabling peer protection: Knowledge is empowerment
- Millennials’ changing social media use: Survey
- Heard of Twitch? Amazon has!
- Dealing with the nasties online
- Leadership in bullying prevention and so much more
Analysis & News – by Larry Magid
- High school kids show strong support for First Amendment
- UN bringing child rights into the digital age
- IGF attendees complain about censorship in Turkey while some advocate it for youth
- Internet Governance Forum topics include human rights, network neutrality and child protection
- Protecting children online needs to allow for their right to free speech
- It’s time for schools to upgrade both technology and pedagogy
- Why Google (and Facebook) should admit kids under 13
- As Ferguson struggles, Georgia teens create app to rate police departments