Thursday, April 9, 2009

Primates on Facebook

I logged into Facebook yesterday and said to Judi "Do I really have this many friends?" I don't pursue anybody on Facebook... it's been a long time since I've initiated a friend request. Do I really even know this many people?

So it was fun to read this recent article in the Economist, which argues that no matter how many FaceBookFriends we have, our actual capacity for human interaction has remained relatively stable.

What also struck Dr Marlow, however, was that the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable. The more “active” or intimate the interaction, the smaller and more stable the group.

Thus 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.

Crazy... it's almost as if a core relational group does best with around 7 to 10 members. Now where have I heard that before...

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