"While it’s cool to show off that you have hundreds or even thousands of Facebook friends, the fact remains that the number is absolutely meaningless. Robin Dunbar, the Oxford Professor behind the original Dunbar number theory, is working on a new study to see if social networks have increased the size of our personal networks (as we postulated last June). The findings show that despite having numerous Facebook friends, “people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world”.
While the findings aren’t exactly surprising, as it’s pretty well known that individuals don’t have the time to manage hundreds or thousands of friends, that Dunbar is the source of the new findings makes this significant. Another interesting finding was gender related: “There is a big sex difference though … girls are much better at maintaining relationships just by talking to each other. Boys need to do physical stuff together.”
There didn’t appear to be a distinction between age groups, however I’d guess that the soon to be released Dunbar report will have more information about various segments of the population. While Facebook users love to brag about the number of friends they have, or use the number as a source of confidence, the study confirms that the number is pretty much insignificant.
If you find that maintaining numerous relationships can be stressful, it’s not a personal problem. The fact is that your brain simply can’t manage an excessive number of relationships. So when your friend starts bragging to you about how many Facebook friends they have, just tell them that Dunbar (an Oxford professor) says their friend count doesn’t matter at all.