No, I’m not on facebook. I actually really kind of dislike social networking, twitter, and all the other Net 2.0 stuff. I don’t find anything very fascinating in other people’s little mind farts, preferring to read a bit more thoughtful posting than 140 characters, even though the little twitter haikus can be amusing at times. I do think I would like being on grunter and stalker, though!
Also see: 25 things I hate about facebook.
But I do find it interesting that there really are only a few people that we really keep close to, no matter how large our networks may seem to be. And since what I value most are my most intimate relationships, perhaps my petty jealousies over those who seem to have a lot of friends are somewhat misplaced. Maybe they really are only as close to the same number of people that I am, after all.
OH, I also note that my Google reader now has about 130 blogs listed, which also fits perfectly into the Dunbar number theory.
What also struck Dr Marlow, however, was that the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable. The more “active” or intimate the interaction, the smaller and more stable the group.
Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.
What mainly goes up, therefore, 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.
Put differently, people who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a polling organisation. Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever.