How many friends are too many?

by Simon Rees on June 10, 2011

Social Network Analysis is predicated upon the assumption that people tend to maintain links with their friends over time, by calling, texting, sending IM and otherwise interacting over various forms of Social Media. However, there tends to be an upper limit to the number of meaningful social relationships that can be maintained [1], even through the relative convenience of online networking through Facebook, MySpace, Sina Weibo, Studivz or Twitter to name but a few. A recent article in IEEE Spectrum suggests that on average people are capable of maintaining stable social links within up to approximately 150 people [2]. The benefits of Social Media then, are not in the facilitation of greatly expanded, active social networks (e.g., the average number of friends of users on Facebook is about 120), but in slowing down the “rate of relationship decay by allowing us to keep in touch with friends over long distances”.

[1]- Carl Bialik, “Sorry, You May Have Gone Over Your Limit Of Network Friends”, Wall Street Journal Online, November, 2007

[2]- Robin Dunbar, “How Many “Friends” Can You Really Have?” IEEE Spectrum, June, 2011

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