Do You Know About Dunbar’s Number?

I guess friendship has been on my mind lately, considering this is my third consecutive post about friendship. Perhaps it’s the realization that I still feel like an outsider in my new city after a year and a half.

A few years ago, I remember being fascinated by a concept called “Dunbar’s Number.” According to Robin Dunbar, a British Anthropologist, the average human brain can only effectively maintain a social relationship with approximately 150 people at a time. Basically, our brains just don’t have the cognitive capabilities to handle remembering all the details of more than 150 people at one time. According to research, this is evolutionary and has been true since the dawn of man. In hunter-gatherer societies, the average community was about 150 people.

Now this doesn’t mean these people are your actual ‘friends,’ they are simply people in your social circle. If you would stop to say hello to someone on the street, they probably count in your 150.

But what’s a bit scary, at least for me, is that a lot of my closest “150” are scattered around the country. They are not all in my community like they probably were for  those in hunter-gatherer societies. I don’t get the benefits or a reassuring hug or an arm squeeze. So essentially, the benefits of my ‘community’ are diffuse and not as concentrated as they could be.

What does this mean for us, as most of us become increasingly mobile in our lives? Are most of your “150” located near you?

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