Networking--both live and through social media--is the rage today. And network contacts are often referred to as "friends." Networking events, meet-ups, and business that specialize in promoting these are growing like wildfire. People will often boast about how many "friends" they may have in their real or online network. Is it sound and fury signifying nothing, or real human connections that bring benefit?
The answer may lie in the research by an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar.
Does our ability to manage complex social connections--love lives, work colleagues, childhood friends and acquaintances--explain why we have such large brains? The answer is yes, according to at least one evolutionary biologist, Robin Dunbar.
Dunbar, a British anthropologist and evolutionary biologist, argued in 1998 that there is cognitive limit to the number of relations that any one primate can maintain. In his new book, How Many Friends Does One Person Need, Dunbar argues that you can only keep friendships with 150 people at any given time, because "this limit is a direct function of neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size where stable interpersonal relationships can be maintained." Dunbar says his number of 150 "refers to those people with whom you have a personalized relationship, one that is reciprocal and based around general obligations of trust and reciprocity."