Social networks: digital neocortex on steroids?

The Guardian reports research shows that ‘social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace do not help you make more genuine close friends…Previous research has suggested that a person’s conventional friendship group consists of around 150 people, with five very close friends but larger numbers of people who we keep in touch with less regularly.’


The number 150 is called the Dunbar number of which I blogged about before. One of possible explanations for this limit is the limitation of the brain’s neocortex area to manage more information simultaneously.

One of the researchers also states the following:

‘…social networking sites allow people to broaden their list of nodding acquaintances because staying in touch online is easy.’

I can imagine that the number of people you call ‘friend’ stays the same but staying in contact with hundreds of ‘nodding contacts’ is getting easier by the day. My thought: social networks are the digital neocortex on steroids. What do you think?

Link via in which they refer (Dutch only) to the Guardian article with a header above their article which implies something that isn’t said in their source: ‘Impossible to make friends online’ (my translation).



  1. The Dunbar number seems very limited. I would think some people are at 30 and others about 600, depending how social they are.
    Online friends and the ability to keep up can be enhanced by social networks, just as video games enhance spacial intelligence. (last week’s Economist).

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