Ruminations

Dunbar's Number

This is an average, of course, so while I get exhausted and have to cut back right around the time I hit that 151st friend mark, one of my roommates reaches her limit much earlier, maintaining around 100 friendships, while the social butterfly in our apartment happily keeps in touch with a whopping 250 people. 

The hypothesis, though widely popularized, has been met with some criticism, especially in our new e-Epoch, where we are capable of having thousands of "friends" thanks to internet webs that extend around the globe. However, in my opinion it serves as a useful tool for thinking about ourselves, the people we give our time to, and the people we expect to give time to us. 

That is why, every few months over the past year, I have written down all 150 names that comprise my Dunbar-ian list. I write down the numbers 1 to 150 and set aside some space for a name. I then fill out my list exactly as people occur to me, figuring that the most important people should be on the forefront of my mind, and that peripheral friendships will occur to me later, when I'm staring at the last few blank spots on the page.

My mom and dad have consistently topped the chart, along with a few "best friends." But the rest of the list is highly sensitive to change. This makes sense considering I am only just about to enter my sophomore year of college. In my current environment, I meet new people every day, any of whom could knock a former "friend" off my list, relegating them to a solely soulless digital friendship. 

Maintaining such a list has been eye-opening, allowing me to track the changes in myself, and in the social life I have created. It means I can pinpoint when a relationship ended, and when someone new entered my life. It also served to elucidate which of my relationships have remained stable over time, and which seem to fluctuate over the course of an academic quarter, or year. Most importantly, it has allowed me to identify the people who are important to me and, depending on how high up they are on my list, continue apace with a friendship, or work to strengthen it. 

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