Imagine your life from its start to the point where you are right now. Look back and remember all the people you have come in proximity with all your life. It starts with the people you grew with, your friends in school, teachers, parents, grandparents, well it seems we have all come in proximity with a lot of people in our lives. But if now you were to just count only the people who have a semblance of a social presence in your life the number of people you started with would decrease N fold. The number N I call is your connectivity Index. The lesser the number N the more connected you are. It has been designed that way for we are Human!
Out of Sight Out of Mind! Heard of thee expression before? Do you really agree with this expression? It holds true to a certain extent but not all the time. It really depends. Do you forget your parents if they are out of your sight never! Siblings Probably Not. Spouse? Depends on what type of a relation you have with your spouse. Ex-Spouse Probably Yes or Probably Not, Ex-Girlfriend Probably Yes, Best Friends No, Casual Friends Yes, Extended Family Yes. So the point I am trying to make is that the idiom out of mind out of sight holds in the relative context of the strength of a relationship. The expression had more validity where geographical proximity was a must for sustained continuous relationships. But wait a minute we live in the age of social media where all our contacts are available at the click of a button thanks to Face Book , What’s App, Twitter and LinkedIn. But does Social media really increase our network of friends and banish the adage out of Sight out of Mind to the dustbins? Now it’s time to quote some Research studies and in the field of Anthropology regarding the brain size and the maximum number of friends a Human being can maintain in a stable state. The number is around 150 and is called the Dunbar Number.
Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150. Dunbar’s number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size. Dunbar theorized that “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size.
As I discovered Dunbar’s number at a very first glance Dunbar’s number looked pretty reasonable to me and instantly remembered that what’s app restricts its group size to a 100. But Social Media definitely has the ability to increase your network of friends and help maintain a continued relationship with your friends and family. Yes that’s the Concept behind social media. But there is no limit to the number of friends you can add in your face book profile or in a what’s app chat but there is no incremental benefit in having 1000 friends vis a vis a 150 friends as suggested by Dunbar. On Further Research I came across a different viewpoint which exclaims social media in its ability to cultivate weak links. Weak links as such are not very strong relationships or casual contacts nevertheless have the potential to increase your social presence. To me a weak link is always a weak link as a weak link is not someone who you go to when confronted with a grave crisis! The ability of social media to harness the weak links is undeniable but what incremental values does it bring to your table? Of course there always have been stories of some guy getting a job through one of his weak links or some stories where a savior in a total bleak scenario is a weak link in that sense more the network the better but a small and trusted network is better than a bigger network which as Dunbar theory points out is always not feasible to operate with.