Facing Facebook Friendships, sociologically speaking


In a  recent interview with The Economist called “Primates on Facebook” Facebook’s resident sociologist (hey Mark Z, got any more Sociology jobs at Facebook?)  reports that even though we have a lot more projection of our stuff out to the web people continue to maintain the fairly small circles of friendships that characterize offline behavior.

The  author Andreas Kluth has more at his blog

If this holds across social networks it’s very important, suggesting that we are likely to struggle or fail to cope with the level of social interaction we set up online at sites like Facebook and Twitter.

I remain skeptical and would argue that the Dunbar number (about 150,  suggesting the maximum number of people a single person can manage) will be increasing as we learn to cope with more online relationships.     I simply cannot believe this is a physical constraint – my guess it that it’s more an artifact of our tribal evolutionary primate past than a determinant of our future.

The Economist notes:

An average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”.  An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26.   Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

… people who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a polling organisation.  Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever.
Sure I have room for more Facebook  friends, just tweet me at Twitter!

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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2 Responses to Facing Facebook Friendships, sociologically speaking

  1. Pingback: Primates on Facebook « The Hannibal Blog

  2. Hello,

    I would like to inform you that the Catalog of Human Population (“Shan Hai Jing”) is now open and can be used in ALL areas of human activity. The Catalog contains full descriptions of all people (based on DOB). People born on the same day (depending on leap or common year) have the same “program” and therefore are MOST compatible. Therefore, learning about yourself and communicating with people that are like yourself – solves ALL relationships and any other problems.
    If this interests you, more information can be found by searching for “Catalog of Human Population” on Google.
    All the best!
    Kate Bazilevsky

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