I’ve written about my rules of facebook before, but I just want to reiterate that research has shown that you really don’t have 5,000, 1,000 or even 500 friends on Facebook. Back in the ‘ 90sRobin Dunbar, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, came up with the theory that the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends, no matter how sociable we are. Basically these are the people that you come in contact with every year and 150 was known as Dunbar’s number.
Now, Dunbar is researching whether larger social networks (like facebook) have allowed people to stretch their Dunbar number. Dunbar told the Times Online, “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world.”
An interesting aside on newspapers and Dunbar’s number: One of the concepts behind hyperlocal newspapers and web sites is that you must reach into all of your reader’s social circles– reach into group of 150 friends– and photograph, report on someone to keep your readers. That’s why you see all the photographs of your neighbors pet or cousin’s softball trophy in your small-town newspaper.