Socialization Limits & Capabilities

Already in ancient history it was known, the ones with the connections lead over others. As you dig deeper into today’s social web, it’s advantages, challenges and opportunities, at one point you may ask yourself “where are the limits – how can I over come them?”. At that stage you may come across the so called Dunbar number. The British scientist Dunbar found that humans’ ability to network is limited to about 150 connections. Our neocortex (part of our brain) is responsible for that limitation.

Now, with Social Media on the rise this number may get an interesting companion. Like we know we can lift on average not much more than our own body weight (with exceptions of course) we may live with the Dunbar based limitations – but we may do what we always did in the past if we came across obstacles: we build tools.

Social media is such a tool. And here is my first rough principal and calculation:
I just call it the “connection principal” for a lack of a better word:

1) Through tools we will be able to manage more than 150 strong tie connections. I’m not taking about the loose connections or the “collection of connections” but strong tie connections.

2) Understanding that not all connection require the same amount of attention and maintenance to keep it a strong connection, we need tools that reflect those differences in order to increase the number. We also need to have those tools help connect fast and at any time as well as allow reciprocity and be very approachable.

3) Tools need to help us manage the connections, intensity, time lines and provide background information to remain relevant and keep the connection meaningful for both parties.

4) With those tools in place I decided a 10x increase over Dunbar must be possible, down the road even more.

5) All that said I’m not arguing that Dunbar is wrong, but that we can increase that number substantially with the right tools as we are able to overcome our physical limitations with the right tools.

I will expand more on this principal in the weeks and months to come. But my number right now is 10x over Dunbar or 1,500 strong ties plus thousands of loose connections as described by Robert Scoble.


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