How many friends does one person need?

Whilst on holiday I had the opportunity to read ‘How many friends does one person need?’ by Robin Dunbar. This is a fantastic read and gives some great insight into human behaviour, the neocortex and the much talked about Dunbars’ number.

Dunbar explains how the figure of 150 refers to people that you have a personalise relationship with that is based around trust and reciprocity. Community plays a big part in our evolutionary success and these core relationships so it is easy to see how this translates to networks such as Facebook.

Exploring the Dunbar 150 number further, it was interesting to read how this pattern can be seen in areas of our lives such as business. Organisations of fewer than 150 people work well on a person-to-person basis but once they grow larger than this they require a formal hierarchy to work efficiently. GoreTex insisted on creating completely separate factory units each with around 150 workers rather than having one, large factory. By keeping to this number he was able to do away with the formal hierarchies and the organisation worked by personal relationships and mutual obligation.

The book also highlights how social skills are more important to females than males, which could explain the sway towards females in most social network statistics.  Dunbar states that females tend to talk about other peoples’s relationships and experiences rather than their own – possibly a reason for the popularity of Heat?

Has anyone else read this book or similar publications? I think this is great knowledge to have when exploring the use of social media networking and marketing.

  • Mark Earls

    Dunbar’s stuff is brilliant. Can I humbly suggest you have a look at to review more of the social brain perspective? Will get you a copy

  • Rosie Duncan

    I’ve written an article about this – I believe that being friends on facebook does not necessitate friendship in reality, and in fact facebook is more for facebook stalking and trying to become ‘facebook famous’. When writing I found an article by The Telegraph that claimed that women over 40 tend to have 4 times as many friends on fb as their children! (
    May be interesting!? The link is on my blog too: