Do you feel you are missing updates? Add no more than 150 connections.

  • How many people do you follow on Twitter.
  • How many friends do you have on Facebook?
  • How many connections do you have on LinkedIn?

Do you feel the need to keep on eye on their updates in these social network sites? Do you feel you are missing updates of friends?

You could be right.

A study by researchers at Indiana University pegs the maximum number of friends a user can truly keep in contact with on sites like Twitter and Facebook at 150-200 people.

LinkedIn connections

Conclusion of the research

Social networks have changed they way we use to communicate. It is now easy to be connected with a huge number of other individuals. In this paper we show that social networks did not change human social capabilities.

We analyze a large dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving millions of individuals to test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar’s number.

We found that even in the online world cognitive and biological constraints holds as predicted by Dunbar’s theory limiting users social activities….

Bruno Gonclaves and his colleagues studied the web of 380 million tweets sent by 3 million Twitter users over four years and found that most people start tweeting and increasing their number of Twitter friends until they become overwhelmed and pull back, focusing on contacts they have stronger connections to. The saturation point, as the researchers refer to it, occurs at about 150 -200 friends.

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar predicted that same number as the maximum tally of friends a person ought to be able to handle based on his study of other primates, and he did it in the 1990s, long before Twitter was ever conceived.

No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150.

R. I. M. Dunbar. Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates. J. Human Evo., 22:469, 1992.
R. I. M. Dunbar. The social brain hypothesis. Evo. Anthro., 6:178, 1998.

I started looking for this number after a discussion earlier today on Facebook. A friend found that she was missing updates and she wanted to see more updates. She has over 1,000 connections on Facebook.

So I showed her this:
“Do you want to see more updates from your friends in your News Feed? Click ‘Sort’, top right of your News Need. Select ‘Most Recent’. It will not show you all but a lot more than ‘Top Stories’. I prefer ‘Top Stories’ I don’t mind missing updates of Spotify updates for example.”

But she already knew this option and she was looking for a way to see ALL updates of her friends.

You will always ‘miss’ updates. Actually, if you don’t know they are not there you will not miss the updates. What I mean, you will not feel that you are missing something.

There is only so much information we can absorb and connections we can keep up with as the research above shows. If you really want to miss nothing, you will have to drastically limit the number of connections on the social network sites.

This is not what I want. Looking for interesting people to follow and see the most interesting updates via tweets, retweets, shares and likes.

I let the software (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) do its work and my network does the rest. This way I will not see all the updates (thank you), I will have a chance to see the most important ones.

About three times a day I will look at the stream on Twitter and see what is going on. I do look at replies and direct messages and reply.

Credit image The world in Facebook

How do you connect

Do you connect with many people and don’t mind missing updates?
Are you keeping your online network small so you can keep up with your friends?

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By Erno Hannink

Sparring and accountability partner for entrepreneurs who create sustainable positive impact. Explores decision-making. Shares his insights on this in, articles, books (Dutch), podcast, newsletters, and tools. Has a life mission to reduce social and ecological inequality. Father of two children, husband of M., runs, referee for the national soccer league, and uses stoicism for calm. Lives in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, and German.