Going beyond 150 friends, going beyond Dunbar

You cannot have more than 150 friends on your social network so all people you follow beyond this number cannot be an actual friend, is not directly useful and you cannot process the extra information they provide to you. At least, that is the thing some people claiming since they say: you are cognitively limited by Dunbar’s number. If your goal is to only have real friends on Twitter, as in people you really know: you know what they eat, when there is their holiday, if they have let’s etc etc. If that is your goal, you will end up with a lot less than 150 people you follow on twitter, since not all of your friends will be on Twitter or any other social network.

Friends or friends?

What Dunbar described was that the cognitive limit for friends is about 150 friends, as in real friends, people that matter to you (including your family and friends that aren’t online). What he didn’t described was not real friends as in people you don’t know that well or don’t know at all. And to be honest twitter and social networking in general is not completely about real friends, it is about weak ties. So it is not about Dunbar, it is about Granovetter.

Weak ties better than friends?

Mark Granovetter wrote about the strength of weak ties. Basically he is going beyond Dunbar and avoids the cognitive limit, since you know less about these individuals and these individuals are not the real friends Dunbar is talking about. What Granovetter says is that weak ties enable you in reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

Social networking is not about Dunbar’s number it is about Granovetter’s theory of the strength of weak ties. Having more than 150 friends is not about having friends, but about building a network of weak ties.