You know that Monkeysphere post I made? Well, turns out there’s this thing called Dunbar’s Number (Wikipedia link) which basically says humans can only maintain social relationships with about 150 people which is directly related to the size of the neocortex.
It’s interesting to apply that to modern social networking across the internet, via instant messenger services, social sites like Facebook and status-update sites like Twitter and Jaiku.
Usually maintaining these large groups is highly dependent on physical closeness. This is how tribes and villages formed. When this was extended to towns and cities, individuals would relate to their family and neighbourhoods. It was
But communication technology bridges the gap and so we have large groups forming outside of the usual intense environment and economic pressures.
During human society development, language replaced grooming as a way of expending less energy for maintaining the relationships (imagine if you had to groom 150 people) and I guess email/sms/facebook is the logical extension here. We’re expending less physical and emotional energy and more electricity to maintain friend lists of 250+ people.
The links above maintain that 150 is a theoretical maximum for stable community groups but spend time defining smaller groups. Some people work well in groups of 5-6. We can maintain team cohesion with around 12 people. More than this and a group becomes a mob. The dynamics of group cohesion and “working together” are fascinating especially when you apply these to other subjects like how to build a team in a corporate environment, how to maintain a clan in World of Warcraft and how many people to bring to your bachelor party or hen night.
Damien Mulley continues the meme with a thought-provoking post on social objects and how we’re moving to a broadcast medium for our life. It’s not that we’re losing our privacy, we’re throwing it out the door. We already wear our allegiances on our T-shirts, we broadcast our brands to the world, we join groups on social networking sites publicly and without restraint. We actually don’t seem to want privacy…
I’m going to read the news now so expect some vitriol about something-or-other in a while.