Virtual Clear Out and Dunbar’s Number…

I like to run a tidy ship, both physically and virtually! I find it as, if not more, relaxing to de-frag my hard drive and sort out my dropbox files as I do to give my room a good tidy. But this isn’t just limited to sweeping the rubbish off my desktop periodically, no no, it extends to my online presence as well: namely my facebook account.

Now not only does my good sense to keep your online presence as private as possible whilst still fufilling a purpose (i.e. only letting the people you want to see you updates actually see them) but it also makes sense according to Robin Dunbar. Dunbar is a British anthropologist who found a link between the brain size and average social group size in primates. Using this data, he took the average brain size of humans and proposed that people can only comfortably maintain around 150 stable relationships. Watch the video below for more information.

Although the number varies hugely from person to person,  he states the number imposed is for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a mental challenge to keep track of so many people! Secondly, it’s a problem of time mangement. The amount of time we invest into a relationship is directly linked to the quality of that relationship, so any more than 150 and you would have to spread yourself very thinly to hang out with everyone! But you can’t have 150 best mates, there isn’t enough hours in the day. Dunbar goes on to say that within this 150, there are several layers and proposes these numbers are also fairly standard across our species (5 best mates, 15 close friends, 50 outer circle, 150 associates etc.).

So armed with this knowledge, I took to my facebook friends list and decided to delete anyone who;

  • had deleted/stopped using their profile
  • I didn’t know
  • I hadn’t spoke to them in ages or had no intention of ever speaking to again


Despite facebook making this process as awkward as possible, I managed to cut down my friends list by 66, or around 13%, in around 20 minutes. Still no where near the magic number of 150, but facebook isn’t just a portal to keeping up with your actual ‘friends’ and it was never my intention to strictly adhere to this number. However, I will think about hitting the accept friend request button in future! So do you just add anyone? Ever had a cull of your friends list? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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About Regan

Regan graduated from the University of Leicester and is no longer blogging for this site. (BA Management Studies)

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2 responses to “Virtual Clear Out and Dunbar’s Number…”

  1. Harry

    Hi Regan,

    Interesting post – I started typing a reply but it became too long for the character count, so I posted as my own blog post.

  2. A Virtual Hoarder?

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