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  • Writer's pictureJim Parks

How many friends can we really have anyway?

The BBC recently printed a story looking at how many personal connections we can really maintain at once. It is a very thought-provoking piece particularly when we think about our online connections and debate the relevancy of them.

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorizes that the magic number is 150. There are a lot of complex calculations and some obscure math behind his thesis but his conclusion is that the part of our brains associated with cognition and language is linked to the size of a cohesive social group. Basically, our brains can only handle so much interaction!

According to Dunbar "this rule of 150 remains true for early hunter-gatherer societies as well as a surprising array of modern groupings: offices, communes, factories, residential campsites, military organizations, 11th Century English villages, even Christmas card lists. Exceed 150, and a network is unlikely to last long or cohere well."

When we look at this idea as it relates to our online connections-our Facebook or Twitter followers for example, it appears the formula holds up...with an interesting exception that science is just beginning to understand: the generational impact. Now that we have a population of young adults who never knew life without the internet, does the same hold true? It turns out our human brains may be evolving in a way that makes online connections just as meaningful as in-person ones.

Something worth thinking about. How many friends and acquaintances do you feel is the right number for you? Do you feel stressed or even isolated when this number grows too large?

Click here to read the full article, and please share your thoughts and ideas on this topic with us by sending an email to me at

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