Dunbar's 150, or is it?

I read Seth Godin’s post Dunbar’s Number isn’t just a number, it’s the law and found that the idea there resonated with me, there is a limit to how many people you can truly keep up with.

It was in fact the first time I’ve heard of Dunbar and his ‘magic’ number of 150, further reading showed that it was in fact not 150, but is 148, or 147.8 and is commonly rounded up to 150.>This number of 150 has become “Dunbar’s Number” and has been popularized by various very popular business books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference ( summary), Duncan J. Watts’ Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age ( review) and Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness ( review), and Mark Buchanan’s Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks ( review), the ideas from which are the foundation of the various Social Network Services that I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog. - source: Life With Alacrity

All of which shows that a lot of people believe there is an upper limit to how many people you can meaningfully interact with in before you start losing productivity/efficiency/usefulness. This is certainly true of the popular social media sites.

What it does for me is make me think how I can use this information to make myself more useful to the social networks I’m involved with. Does it mean I should follow fewer people on twitter? Or does it mean follow them by the bucket load and simply ignore those outside of my ‘Dunbar’ group?

What do you think? Perhaps you have some ideas that I’ve not thought of, if so, please let me know.

Written on October 28, 2009