Look Up the Number

When Your Bank ‘Likes’
You as Much as a ‘Friend’

‘Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.’ From a superficial standpoint, Goethe had no way of knowing that, over two centuries later, his words would still be current, invoked in a story about social networking. After all, a lot has changed since, or has it?
Despite its technological patina, the Internet only enhanced what essentially was already there since our times as chief foragers of the land: our limited ability to extend the web of our meaningful relationships. That even if we consider that our own brain has grown to catch up with our social adaptability needs.
Thus, when the British psychologist Robin Dunbar came up with a number to serve as a parameter of how many people can actually be a factor on our lives, and us on theirs,  he mostly confirmed what many kinds of social interactions were already suggesting, even before his time.
The Dunbar Number, which is 150, by the way, is the average, some would say, limit, number of people we not just know by name, but also share a deeper story or connection with. They do not include your boss, or your bank, the Korean deli worker you chat everyday, or even your drug dealer, if you happen to have one (we won’t tell).
At the same time, among those 150, are the closest members of your family, your truly dearest friends, your childhood partner with whom you set up shop, and maybe the proverbial former lover or two. You may not see or talk with them that often, but if you run into them on the street, chances are, you’ll stop and spend some quality time together.

Goethe, of course, had something else in mind when he formulated what became one of his most well-known quotes. He was referring to what can be revealed about you just by the company you keep, and boy, isn’t that still so true. Again, we’re not talking about your buddies at the local waterhole, or your lover’s annoying mates.
But if you’d happen to brag about your 500 friends on Facebook, that could give everyone an important hint about the kind of person you really are: first, that you’re a liar calling them friends. Secondly, at least Continue reading