Your Brain Can’t Handle All of Your Facebook Friends

Tue, Jan 26, 2010

Facebook, Social

Evolutionary Anthropologist Robin Dunbar recently spoke to the Times Online about a person’s mental capacity for friendship and how it relates to the number of friends a person makes on Facebook.

For those who aren’t familiar, Dunbar isn’t new to the friendship game. In fact, his “Dunbar’s Number” is a widely supported figure that states that any one individual cannot maintain worthwhile relationships (ie: friendships) with more than 150 people at any one point in time. But that isn’t our fault.

Blame the neocortex, says Dunbar. The neocortex is the part of the brain that manages conscious thought and language, and apparently, it simply can’t handle networking with more than 150 people in a social circle.

Dunbar claims that people automatically create these limited social groupings as a group’s ability to work together deteriorates in larger numbers. And, regardless of the number of friends a person may have on Facebook, or other social networking sites, we subconsciously implement the same limits there too.

“The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world,” says Dunbar. “People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they’re unlikely to be bigger than anyone else’s.”

Whether or not you agree with Dunbar’s line of thinking, I can tell you one thing – this makes me feel a lot less guilty about hiding a good chunk of people on my Live Feed.

“No, it’s not that you bore me, it’s that my brain can’t handle looking at so many things at once.”

Yay science.

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- who has written 2533 posts on Frisky Mongoose.

Brandy is the Social Editor at Frisky Mongoose, focusing on the social side of the gaming world.

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