While the capacity for our social networks has no real limit, social scientists agreed upon a threshold by which we can comfortably manage our relationships. That magical number, according to Bernard and Killworth (1979), is approximately 140 people. Beyond that, members will naturally sub-divide so they can better understand their position in the group and function effectively. Extending past this core group, people can have roughly 2,500 in their informal network. If that sounds like a high number, just think about every memorable acquaintance, colleague, consultant, medical professional, vendor, classmate, and customer service representative. It adds up pretty quickly.
It goes to show that new technologies do value and use this knowledge to design new applications. Social media platform Path draws on this number directly – it is used to share life’s moments, but users have to limit followers to 150. It’s a closed network where followers have to be approved and the private space allows for more control over the social sharing. (It is one of my favourite apps!)
Thanks for sharing that app Sylvia- will have to try it out. It’s a bit like companies deciding that the idea of the open system is latched onto in a closed fashion
Before Path, I used to share more personal information on Twitter. I’ve used it for over a year now (and posted 600 moments on there in that time) and it really has proven to provide value for me – I only have 18 people in my core online social circle, mostly family and close friends. It’s not for everyone – I totally get that people can only document in so many places, and some people have no problem sharing personal info in the public realm. Give it a try and see what you think!
I too am interested in the app – thanks! It will have to wait until either the weekend or perhaps until after spring institute. Also, need to comment on your heading for the blog – great node chart!!
Yes- how did you make this chart? I see you’ve personalized it
Always good to see what’s out there in terms of apps. If you only want to share with one person, there is an app called ‘Pair’ that is also gaining popularity. So many options to choose from!
You can upload a custom header with this template (and many others). I used a free Twitter data visualization tool (there are tons: http://flowingdata.com/2008/03/12/17-ways-to-visualize-the-twitter-universe/) and just grabbed a clip from there. You can then design the rest on InDesign or whatever application you choose. (It’s not exactly aligned the way I imagined, but I don’t have the right tools on my laptop to fix it.) Give it a go when you have time to play.
I loved your blog post Sylvia, because when I was reading that article the other day it made me think of all the people I still hand-write and mail Christmas cards to. It’s never been 140 people but it’s easily been close to 100. After that it gets too messy and I think that is a good indicator for our online networks as well. I have far too many acquaintances, I have some good friends and I don’t have nearly enough time to spend on anyone anymore.
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