Dunbar’s number: Why we can only maintain 150 relationships

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The theory of Dunbar’s number holds that we can only really maintain about 150 connections at once. But is the rule true in today’s world of social media?

If you’ve ever been romantically rejected by someone who just wanted to be friends, you may have delivered a version of this line: “I’ve got enough friends already.” Your implication, of course, being that people only have enough emotional bandwidth for a certain number of buddies.

It turns out that’s not just an excuse. There are well-defined limits to the number of friends and acquaintances the average person can retain. But the question about whether these limits are the same in today’s digital world – one in which it’s common to have social media profiles, or online forums, with thousands of followers – is more complicated.

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