Think about all the people that you know in your life. How many of those people are you actually close with? What is the most amount of meaningful relationships that you can have? It seems that this number is 150 and it is called Dunbar’s Number. This is the cognitive limit on the amount of stable social relationships someone can have. This is the amount of people that you know and how they relate to every other person that you know.
This number is based on the findings of anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, when he discovered the correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Taking data from primates and average human brain size, he found out that humans can maintain an average number of 150 stable relationships. This was confirmed when they looked back at historical data of like members of a tribe and company size of armies.
But with the advent of social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where we can have hundreds of friends and potentially thousands, or even millions of followers, does this number still apply? Yes. There have been numerous studies and articles on the limits of friendship that show that Dunbar’s number still affects us even with these modern tools.
Even though we can have up to 5,000 friends on Facebook, we can only process and interact with 100 – 200 of them on a regular basis. We can have a large group of acquaintances and even larger group of people where we can simply put a face too. These interactions can consists of likes, comments, shares or even the forgettable “poke” feature. And even then, these virtual interactions are not nearly as meaningful as face-to-face interactions. We know this is obvious, but why?
The importance of face-to-face interactions goes back to the early days of our primate ancestors and relates back to the Dunbar’s number. We would do social grooming on each other to clean or maintain each other’s bodies. Social grooming releases endorphins and makes each other feel good.
These would also help maintain those relationship, keep the group cohesive and build trust so we can protect each other. The number relationships we could maintain increased along with our brain sizes.
However, there came a point during our evolution and increase in brain and social group size, that doing the normal social grooming became impractical and time consuming. We evolved to the point where we developed language as a means of “cheap” form of social grooming. We would still get the release of endorphins, feel good, gain trust and comfort with the person we were communicating with.
Communicating face-to-face is much more powerful than doing it online because of real human element. You can feel each other’s presence though eye contact, body language, voice tonality, and touch. 93% of communication is non-verbal. You will be missing most of
that by doing it online.
However, you can still use social media to your advantage by utilizing the mere-exposure effect and maintain a presence with your large social circle or even expand it. This can helpful to build attraction and familiarity with women you don’t even know or further increase it with women you already do know. You can have women have you as part of their Dunbar number first before they become a part of yours.
I will write a post that goes deeper on social media game and how you can use these social media tools to your advantage. I learned how to do this from one of my mentors that uses social media and sleeps with 9s and 10s on a regular basis where most of them have reached out to him first because of his presence online.
In order to maintain a stable and healthy relationship or bring new people within your social circle, you need to communicate personally with them on a regular basis. Having good conversational skills where you build commonalities with each other and reward good behavior and can help build stronger relationships. Make it an effort to maintain and strengthen your social circle through regular events and outings.
Our Dunbar number will constantly be changing based on how often we meet or communicate with the people we know or get introduced and meet new people that we would like to maintain a relationship with. Social media can help us organize those relationships and even rekindle past ones, like reconnecting with old high school friends.