I’ve found myself drifting away from many people, far too often. I don’t enjoy this, as there are many wonderful people I wish I could interact with. Former classmates from all my years of schooling, old colleagues who have moved onto other adventures, and even random people on the internet who shared a common interest. All of these people I seem to lose touch with, and I don’t have the effort or time to bring them back into my circle. Social media helps, and I can interact with them if I wish, but still it is odd to have someone on my “Friends” list who I haven’t talked to in five years.

There have been at least a couple different studies done about what is the cognitive limit for which people can have stable social relationships. One anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, estimated the limit to be 150 relationships. Two others, H. Russell Bernard and Peter Killworth, had their own estimate (arithmetic mean) of 290 relationships. [1] These limits do depend on the intimacy of the relationship - one could have as many as 500 acquaintances. At any rate, we do have a limited amount of “social capital” so maintaining those 500 relationships leaves the amount spread quite thin per person. [2]

Thinking about my network, both professional and personal, I’ve started to realize that I have a quantity vs. quality problem. I’ve got less social capital than most due to being an introvert, so when trying to spread it among 300+ people the end result rounds down to zero interaction for 80% of the group.

How can this situation be improved? By adding a constraint.

I can only have a maximum number of 250 Facebook friends. Why 250? 150 of these people (Dunbar’s number) I want to devote my time and energy into maintaining a stable relationship with. The remaining 100 are those who I enjoy hearing about but cannot interact with. Those 250 people are the ones I value most in my life (outside of family).

Now what does this mean for you?

My apologies in advance if this seems like a crazy, selfish, inconsiderate idea - I mean no harm or offense to anyone. This is merely an experiment which happens to be running indefinitely. Kinda like life itself…

I hope to make many more meaningful connections in the future. Come join me.


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The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a junior in high school, looking for advice on studying Computer Science at a Chicago university. I thought it would be useful for other students to see, especially as the... Continue →