We have heard of many numbers. But a number after a person’s name is not very common. And one of those uncommon numbers is Dunbar’s number. It was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. It is a theoretical limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain a stable social relationship. It has been proposed to lie somewhere between 100 to 230, with a commonly used value of 150. Yes, 150. And that’s the magic number.
From the hunter-gatherer societies to the military, 150 is the optimum number for a community. That’s because our brain is hard wired to pay close attention to only 150 people. You try to exceed the number and your life gets all messy.
Hey, but I have almost 700 facebook friends. What does this mean? Are only 150 of them my friends? What about the remaining 550? Are they not my friends?
To get the answer to this question, I went through my facebook friend list. I found something quite interesting. Out of the 700 friends, I hardly knew almost a one-third of them. By ‘knew’ I mean their updates appear in my news feed. That’s all. Nothing more. So does that means the rest are my friends? I honestly do not know.
In the list, there were people whom I talk to regularly, with whom I share things. I can be comfortable with them even in the most awkward situations. They ARE my friends. But they were very few. There were some with whom I only the share the wish-you-a-happy-birthday ritual. And there were some with whom I do not even share this ritual!
In this video, Robin Dunbar himself explains why we can’t have more than 150 friends.
One thing I learnt from this is that I have a very few real friends (I don’t know if I even reached the number close to the magic number!) and I will have to treasure them.