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Friday, 16 September 2011

100-200 regular contacts is what you are limited to

dunbar's research suggests that you or i can maintain regular contact with some 100 to 200 others

plainly social media has a profound effect on the ease with which we connect with others

but can the technology allow us to go over dunbar's limit?

bruno gon calves, nicola perra and alessandro vespignani have studied the network of links created by users on twitter - not just those who we follow - but those we have regular contact with.

they found that over a certain number of contacts we start to get overwhelmed (an experience you may have had if you're trying to stay on top of twitter, facebook and google + accounts).

beyond that saturation point, the conversations with less important contacts start to become less frequent and the tweeters begin to concentrate on the people they have the strongest links with.

guess what the saturation point is?

the answer is between 100 and 200, just as dunbar predicts.

found via frsa daily at technology review

ps - for an alternative view and a bit more background try this post


  1. Thank-you for the tip off - I do indeed find this very interesting (wonder where the 320 figure I had on the brain came from - probably thin air?)

    It's a very real question for me because I have just gone over 320 people I follow, and my 'followers' are climbing towards 330. So, even with my optimistic figures, this is crunch time. It is important to me that I see all that my 'friends' post: because I have been able to do this until now, I do feel that the people I have regular exchanges with are my friends. By definition if you are only seeing half the posts of the people you follow, you are only getting half the story.

    But it is equally unpalatable to be unable to follow anyone new without first unfollowing someone.

    I think this is a real dilemma to which I have no solution!

  2. thanks for the comment - I have posted a later blog which summarises various additional info I found on the whole question of how many contacts we can handle - how that is helpful