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, used in the original article.



Do you feel like Jesus is a part of your life, and not the center of your life? You’re not alone. What does it mean to “live for Jesus” even when we have all these other responsibilities clamoring for our attention? Does your time with God compete with everything else you must do?

Consider a different approach:

“The prevailing view of life today is that of an individual standing on his or her own, heroically ‘juggling’ various responsibilities: family, friendships, career, leisure, chores, decisions and money. We could also add social responsibilities like political activity, campaigning organizations, residents’ groups and school associations.


From time to time the pressures overwhelm us and we drop one or more of the balls. All too often church becomes one of the balls. We juggle our responsibilities for church (measured predominantly by attendance at meetings) just as we juggle our responsibilities for work or leisure.



An alternative model is to view our various activities as responsibilities as spokes of a wheel. At the center of hub of life is not me as an individual, but us as members of the Christian community. Church is not another ball for me to juggle, but that which defines who I am and gives Christlike shape to my life.”

—Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, pages 42-43

-ISMS: Idealism.

“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” —George Carlin

Do you call yourself a realist? And do others call you a pessimist? Was there perhaps a time when you were a romantic idealist, envisioning things that could be if only we believed and persevered towards them?

I struggle with cynicism on a daily basis, which is not a surprise confession among those who know me well. Recently I’ve begun to own up to my cynicism, which is really nothing more than pride packaged together with a know-it-all perspective and delivered by way of humor. I like to think of myself as smarter than others, and able to laugh about how things actually work as opposed to the common view of how things should work. Cynicism and its cousin sarcasm are insufferable to live with.

It’s actually not ignorant to be an idealist, as long as one’s ideals are true. Of course, being true to one’s ideals is the next step. We are as much what we do as what we say.

In continuing these intermittent series on “-ISMS,” I thought it helpful to label another one that gets both bad and good press. Ideals set before us as something to aspire toward and attain can be a great motivator, but we get into trouble when we foist our ideals on others, expecting them to measure up. Consider the ideal of community, as described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.”

Continuing on to the end of the next paragraph:

“Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

“… The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pages 26-27; translated with an introduction by John W. Doberstein.

In the Gospel the real is better than the ideal. Let God shatter your ideals of community, for that is His grace to you to bring you something far richer, more beautiful, and more nourishing for your soul.

Facebook domination.

Facebook is the McDonald’s of Social Networking. With more than 650 million active users, the social media site has become the choice of online connection around the world. (The U.S. is increasingly saying “I’m Lovin’ It”: more than 42% of Americans have a Facebook account.)

So, how has Facebook spread?

Vincenzo Cosenza has given us a new edition of the World Map of Social Networks, showing the most popular social networks by country, according to Alexa & Google Trends for Websites traffic data* (June 2011).

Below you will find an infographic poster of all changes since June 2009. You can also see an animated version of all his maps.

Cosenza writes:

Facebook is slowing gaining users around the world (almost 700 millions) establishing its leadership in 119 out of 134 countries analyzed (in this edition I’ve added Ethiopia and Tanzania).
Since December 2010 Zuck’s creature has conquered Iran and Syria, although struggling against censorship. Europe has now became the largest continent on Facebook with 205 million users (Facebook Ads Platform).

Probably Netherlands and Brazil will be the next countries to surrender. According to Alexa Facebook is already the leader there, but Google Trends shows a different picture (I will change my map when the two sources will say the same).


Here’s the current social media landscape:
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