Every story about social media eventually mentions Dunbar’s number, a theory popularized by psychologist Robin Dunbar about the relationship between the size of your brain and the size of your average social group. He proposed that 150 friends is the average cognitive limit that our brains allow for stable relationships.
It is therefore irrelevant how many friends you claim to have on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media sites. Whether it’s 20 or 2,000, most of them are destined to be acquaintances. Unless you meet them face-to-face, and maintain that level of relationship intimacy, they will never be friends.
“Social media certainly help to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face. But no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.
There is something paramount about face-to-face interactions that is crucial for maintaining friendships. Seeing the white of their eyes from time to time seems to be crucial to the way we maintain friendships.”
Moreover, he says, of those average 150 friends of yours, maybe 3% can be relied upon when there’s a crisis or other life change that you want people to care about. Think about that. When was the last time someone interacted with you after a job loss, divorce, or other lifestyle change? I don’t know the best solution but adding more friends is not necessarily the answer.
Feel free to follow or friend me on either site. But unless we meet face-to-face (and that could include digital equivalents like video chatting on Skype and FaceTime, both of which I have installed and enjoy using), we’ll just be faceless names to each other. Where’s the beauty in that?