As my constant revolution in focus and decluttering continues, I thought I would turn to a potentially sensitive subject, that of social connections. Many of us have quite a few Facebook friends, and I have decided to take the contrarian (but seemingly sensible) position that our social networks should be limited to those with which we are actually social, as opposed to a competition to catalog every human with which we have crossed paths.

Enter Robin Dunbar‘s magical number: 150; this is the number of social connections the evolutionary psychologist found could be supported by our brain, to quote an article directly:

Dunbar developed a theory known as “Dunbar’s number” in the 1990s which claimed that the size of our neocortex — 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.

The article went on to note that even among modern social networks, the core interaction happens among a similarly small number of connections. So then what is the point of having so many friends of Facebook if not a popularity contest? Perhaps I’m short-sighted and the real value in a huge friend list is the ability to send out notifications to all about blog posts and promotions?

Be that as it may, this bit of science inspired me to follow in the steps of another blogger, who kept his Facebook friend list down to about 100 to allow for the real life connections that don’t have Facebook profiles, although I must admit, even my eldest of relatives have opened accounts. Think of the benefits:

  • Less requests for Farmville
  • More relevant status updates
  • Less time spent absorbing the feed

I encourage you to cull your friends and strip down your Facebook to those 150 real connections; if you find that you are no longer my friend, don’t take it personally I probably don’t speak with you much, haven’t in forever, or never got to know you in the first place.