Forget about having a meaningful relationship with 200+ “friends”. In his article “Social Networking Utopia is not coming” on cnn.com, Chris Taylor explain the reason why we are so still tribal.
What they wanted to know was this: How many real connections do Twitter users have? Not just silent following, not retweeting, not a stray @ message to someone, but a real back-and-forth conversation. How many people can you maintain that kind of contact with online before you get overwhelmed?
The answer, on average, was roughly 150.
It’s Dunbar’s number, so named for an anthropologist who predicted the size of the “tribe” we can comfortably handle, based on the size of our brain compared to that of other primates and the average size of their groups.
Turns out we’re hardwired to get along best in tight groups of no more than 150, and have been since we were living on the African savannah. Armies take advantage of this hardwiring, as do the smartest corporations, not to mention wedding planners.
The authors explain it this way: Calculators are great tools, but they don’t turn us into math geniuses. They don’t expand our brain’s natural limits. Neither do Facebook or Twitter.
And maybe this is no bad thing. What social media gives us, for the first time, is the chance to choose our own group of 150.
Instead of being lumped with the village we happened to be born in, as happened for most of history, we each get to construct a virtual village that suits us — cobbled together from family, old friends, our best co-workers and mentors, and that like-minded spirit you met on vacation one time.
Chrois Taylor predicts big things for the first social service to make sure you max out at 150 friends or followers, making the resulting interaction all the more worthwhile.”