Facebook friends article/Dunbar's number and blog communities?

My “real life” and Facebook friend Rachel sent me a link to this Slate article, “The Facebook Commandments,” which is really about the practice of “friending.” It’s a light and amusing piece, something that might be a nice little reading for ENGL 516. Here’s a good quote that taught me something too:

Noted anthropologist Robin Dunbar found that the mean clique—a group of primary social partners—consists of around 12 people. Average maximum network size—a group of real friends plus friends of friends—is around 150. I don’t know about you, but most of my primary clique isn’t on Facebook. My social graph and my social life overlap, but not nearly as much as they would if all of my close friends were on Facebook.

That’s why college students find Facebook so addictive. An undergrad who doesn’t have a Facebook profile is regarded as a Luddite, the social equivalent of leading a survivalist lifestyle complete with flintlock rifle and bandana. In this case, Facebook works as it should. Even if you have 700 friends, the site susses out your real bosom buddies—they post on your wall, they trade messages with you, and they pop up on your News Feed way more often.

I think the other reason why college students have so many different Facebook friends is because they have so many friends, period. I never knew as many people on a first name basis as I did when I was an undergraduate.

But the thing I learned was the bit about Dunbar’s number, which (maybe I think this because it’s just on my mind) might be something worth exploring in terms of my BAWS project. The opening sentences of the Wikipedia entry for Dunbar’s number says 150 “represents a theoretical maximum number of individuals with whom a set of people can maintain a social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person. Group sizes larger than this generally require more restricted rules, laws, and enforced policies and regulations to maintain a stable cohesion.” The po-mo English professor in my very much wants to resist “rules” like this, but as I think about my experiences with blogging the last year or so, it makes a lot of sense. On my own blog, which I suspect is “regularly read” by about 40 or 50 people tops and which receives few comments, I don’t feel much need for “rules.” On the other hand, on EMUTalk.org, the community blog I run for EMU that has thousands of “regular readers” and that receives hundreds of hits on even a slow day, a variety of different ruckuses over the year really called for/required me to write up some pretty specific rules for proper social conduct on the site to “maintain a stable cohesion” and just simple order.

Yet something else to research perhaps….

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