Relational capacity: Too many friends, so little time?

Ever feel like you have too many Facebook friends? You and I probably do.

At last count I had 477 “friends” on Facebook, and I try to only “friend” (verb) people on FB who I know in real-life (with perhaps a couple exceptions). That number is also disproportionately male, as my wife and I agree to not self-approve friend requests from people of the opposite sex, no matter if we know them well or not. (We don’t keep up with the requests very regularly!) I’m sure there are dozens of everyday friends I’ve yet to “connect” with on the social media hub. I can think of many close friends who are not on FB, and with whom I have more quite meaningful interaction in real life.

With all the technology at our fingertips, we still cannot keep up with everyone.

Were we ever designed to?

A recent study from a book club excerpt and review posted by Gawker helps us see why trying to keep up with everyone is impossible:

The Biological Reason You Have Too Many Facebook Friends

So many people think that the more Facebook friends they have, the better. Wrong! In an excerpt from his just released book You Are Not So Smart David McRaney explains “Dunbar’s Number” and why trying to keep in touch with more than 150 people, even on Facebook, is a biological impossibility.

The Misconception: There is a Rolodex in your mind with the names and faces of everyone you’ve ever known.

The Truth: You can only maintain relationships and keep up with around 150 people at once.

The book ventures more deeply into the biological reasons why that is.
  • There are more than 800 million active users
  • More than 50% of those active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends

Maybe the “average” people are getting it right, keeping their totals under 150.

Introverts and extraverts alike, we were not created to know everyone deeply.

(No need to worry, my conservative readers: I do not believe we are primates in the sense that we are evolutionary-mature monkeys, as appears to be an underlying assumption of the research. Yes, we are classified as primates, and rightly so. But I think there is a unique soul and “breath” of God with which He created us, in His image, not the next step [or more] in the process of natural selection. Even still, this study intrigues me, and our over-connected and under-relational ways lend credence to McRaney’s thesis. There’s no need to toss out his research even if you do not subscribe exactly to the modern scientific theory of Macro-Evolution.)

 

Photo credit: from Shutterstock.com, used in the original article.

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