Can Social Technologies Increase Our Dunbar Limit?

Can Social Technologies Increase Our Dunbar Limit?.

This is an interesting take on social media analysis, particularly when there is push from all sides to increase the number of social links, friends, connections, followers. The touted rewards are either an enhanced status (presence) or more opportunities for finding a suitable career or soulmate, whatever the quest.

The Dunbar principle refers to a theoretical cognitive limit that the average person has for maintaining stable social relationships. And yes, there is debate on what constitutes a stable social relationship, but Professor Dunbar uses a specific definition. Beyond this limit, relationships break down or are forgotten.

In his article, Michael Wu asks whether this limit can be extended through the power of social web technologies and how they can help to keep it all together.

He concludes by saying that because socializing involves more than just communicating via the web, it is unlikely that this limit will increase much beyond the approximately 150 currently set as the limit. Socializing and establishing solid relationships entails a certain amount of physical intimacy, touch, smell and other non verbal cues.

The value that social web technologies bring is the ability to access large populations quickly and easily and to capture their attention. He also mentions the meshing tools that put together brands, companies and users. So breadth but not depth is what he concludes. At least when it comes to social relationships between people. Relationships between things is something else.