Tag Archives: dunbar’s no

Dunbar’s no and the impact of social networking [for @josephdee @davidfeldt : re active network]

I’ve never written a post in response to a tweet before. Great concept @josephdee given I’ve got more than 140 char to share.

At #casecamp, Matt Wyndowe from Facebook labs shared Dr. Dunbar’s number 150 and that there is a new active network size of about 40 – 50.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time thinking about Dr. Dunbar’s number of 150 [the maximum size of a managed human network] and whether or not his theories have adequately accounted for the impact social networking is having on relationship management.  This led to some very interesting research findings – that basically state that Dr. Dunbar’s number still holds true – people still have relatively small ‘groomed’ or managed networks.

That said, social networking has allowed people to manage more casual relationships than ever before — enter the ‘active network’. In other words, each person can manage closer to Dr. Dunbar’s number than ever before.   Also – it is worth mentioning, although small, that there are gender differences in network sizes.  Women are more enthusiastic online communicators and so manage slightly larger active networks.

Some resources on the matter:

First – @josephdee’s post talks to a new relationship size since the advent of social networking – that is the Active facebook network:  40.

Second – A post by the Economist, “Primates on Facebook”, dated Feb 26th 2009, now behind the subscription firewall, is a great short article of  the Economist asking Facebook’s in-house sociologist, Cameron Marlowe, to review of Dr. Dunbar’s theories in light of social networking.  The conclusion is that Dr. Dunbar’s number holds firm:

“What mainly goes up..  is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively. This corroborates Dr Marsden’s ideas about core networks, since even those Facebook users with the most friends communicate only with a relatively small number of them.”

Third – now – even better than the Economist’s article is the blog post by the actual socialologist – Cameron Marlow who answers the question “is Facebook increasing the size of people’s personal networks?”  and in the process he provides excellent visuals on the matter.