Dunbar's Number

There are hundreds of social networking sites with more arriving every day. Perhaps you have been invited to a few, “friended” some people, connected to some people you know or once knew. Social networks get more interesting the more connections that you have. More conversations, more opinions, more people, more, more, more…

In the real world, none of that is physically possible, which brings to mind Dunbar’s Number.

Dunbar’s number has been popularized as the supposed cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships: the kind of relationships that go with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person.

In simple terms, you can really only maintain a stable relationship with about 150 people. Beyond that, you need help.

The power of the social network is that you aren’t looking for anything beyond casual contact, so the temptation is to add everyone you have ever met to your social network. (Wow! I’m popular now!) And depending on what you are using the network for, this is totally fine and the network database supports this.

LinkedIn is different. It is about reputation, trust and building permission. When you connect to someone on LinkedIn, you are granting and expecting trust and permission. If you abuse that permission, you will get yourself into trouble. Unlike most social networks, LinkedIn seems to embrace Dunbar’s Number at least to me. It is not about quantity, rather quality of the connection.

Perhaps that is why LinkedIn is getting very popular in the business community.