Saturday, 27 June 2020

Better contact management with Dunbar’s Number

We can only ever have 150 friends. Our brains can’t cope with more.

150 is known as Dunbar’s Number. It was suggested by Robin Dunbar as the cognitive limit to the number of people who any human is capable of maintaining a close, meaningful relationship with.

It’s therefore hardly surprising that we start feeling overwhelmed when our Twitter community grows to several hundred (or thousand!) contacts. Even if someone should claim to possess the brainpower to handle more relationships, there just wouldn’t be enough hours in a day for managing such a huge circle of friends and work contacts.

Information overload is affecting us all

As a minimalist I am always on the lookout for theories on limitations, boundaries or minimisation, so I was pleased to stumble upon the concept of Dunbar’s Number. I find it fascinating! It should make us ponder the following:

How much information can our brains process on a daily basis?

We all probably reach a point occasionally when we feel our brains are about to shut down. The amount of information that we can take in at any one time is limited. Information overload is affecting us all.

Which of our (many) relationships matter the most?

The social and business environments that we live in today are complex and wide-ranging. Staying on top of all our relationships is becoming more and more of a challenge. Can we even identify off the top of our heads the contacts that are truly important to us?

How best to manage the contacts that are truly important to us?

Interacting and socialising online clearly has its benefits, not least for the introverts among us. Yet in the end, it cannot be denied that getting together physically (Covid allowing!) is best. It is the most effective method for maintaining and nurturing “true” interpersonal relationships.

Constantly adding to our lists of social contacts may seem easy, but isn’t everything; we should invest in cultivating existing relationships, too. And it’s worth remembering that according to the Dunbar’s Number concept, we can only ever have at most 150 friends.

- Guardian: Robin Dunbar: we can only ever have 150 friends at most
- Wikipedia: Dunbar's Number