I surf the internet. If websurfing were a sport, I would be so good. I’m out there every day, trying to learn new things and figure out what makes everything tick. How does it all work?
With all these things jumping into my brain every day, it’s intriguing when I find a philosophical or psychological theory that falls in line with my current musings. Today, the theory is Dunbar’s number, and it lines up perfectly with a rant about Facebook.
Remember when Facebook came out? I was friends with all my friends, then I was friends with my friends’ friends, then their friends’ friends, and soon enough, I had a ton of friends, few of whom I actually knew or kept in touch with.
At this point, Facebook started to stress me out. This is out of control! I have to keep up with all these people? I don’t want to know what so-and-so is doing, I haven’t even shaken his hand! The end result, I dropped my Facebook account and went a year without one. It was a good year. So why is Dunbar trying to be my friend?
Dunbar’s number is, as Wikipedia puts it:
...a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150.
I can only have between 100 and 230 friends?! But Facebook said I had 400+!! Ohhhh, no wonder I couldn’t keep up with them. It makes more sense now.
At first I thought it was my problem. Everyone has friends on Facebook and I see all there activity, but how many keep up with every Facebook friend they have? Probably not many. After some planning and carefully set Facebook permissions, I have a new Facebook account, and I don’t have many friends on there. I’ll tell you what though, I keep in contact with the friends that are on there, and I care about what they’re doing too.
Now I apologize if I am blunt, but if you want to be my Facebook friend for the sake of being my Facebook friend, I’m sorry, you’re not getting through. Are you in my phone? Better yet, are you on my “Recent Calls” list? Again, sorry bud, but it’s not going to work out for you. It’s not that I don’t like you, I have a lot of acquaintances that I think are wonderful people! But I don’t want to know what you had for dinner last night, or how many pigs you’ve raised on your virtual farm.
I think it’s important to keep in touch with the people you care about, and stop wasting time on the people who slip through the cracks. It’s not that you have to hate them or leave them for dead, I think your time can be much more appreciated by those who care. You’re probably a great person! But you might not get as excited to talk about web development and neuroscience research as I do, and for that, try to appreciate the differences instead of being upset that I’m not your best friend. I mean, I can only have 150 or so friends, according to my man Dunbar here, and of those, only a few are the best ones.
Spend time to keep the good friends, because in the long run, if you lose them, you’re going to be pretty lonely in a room full of acquaintances.