If you’ve not heard of it, Dunbar’s Number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. If this is all new to you then take a moment to read this fairly recent & very good article from Business Week.
Twitter & Me
Dunbar’s Number is something I’ve been cognisant of for some years and I keep coming back to. I’ve seen this dynamic play out in the work place and now I think there’s something important to recognise in Social Media, in particular Twitter…
For some time I’ve been noticing my own human limitations in terms of the number of people I can stay connected with on Twitter. I don’t mean how many people I can or do follow… I mean how many people I can maintain some sense of a quality “connection” with.
For me “connection” is about mutuality, regard, belief in the relationship no matter how deep. It’s not necessarily friendship or love but there is always some level of personal or professional fealty. I see such “connection” as being quite different to say a professional contact.
Now I realise there are various ways we can/do utilise Twitter. For me it’s not a platform to broadcast; it’s a platform to support meaningful relationships. This sense of “connection” I’ve mentioned above is very important to me on Twitter. Following 5,000 people is personally not of any use… In fact the more people I follow, the less attention I give and the harder it is to maintain engagement with even the best of friends.
Over the last 6 months I’ve tried to follow no more than 300 people which has made a big difference. Perhaps curiously, I’ve since noticed that the number of people I can maintain a quality “connection” with seems to be around 100-200 people. Much beyond this number, Attention Dilution kicks in for me and in some way I fail to support those meaningful relationships. I think this is Dunbar’s Number at work and it’s worth paying attention to.
I make good use lists and this has help create focus and create “feeds” of info on certain areas I’m interested in. More importantly, it means I don’t to have 100’s of people in my main timeline. It’s my way of keeping in touch with what other professionals in my areas of work & interest are sharing as/when I need to. It’s been a good little strategy for me.
Yet it’s still not quite the right balance for me.
My 150 Experiment on Twitter
So I’m going to bite the bullet and half the number of people I’m following on Twitter to 150.
I sense there’s going to be a bit of pain in this process yet I believe that the learning & focus is more important.
I’ll keep using lists as a way to stay in the loop in certain areas and I’ll use LinkedIn for my professional contacts. I’m actually curious what this experiment will reflect in terms of LinkedIn – I suspect nothing but who knows… expect a blog post in Spring!
In the meantime, wish me luck!