Do Social Media Rob You of True Friends or Give You More of Them?

150, 50, 15, 5. Those are the magic numbers in the sociology of friendship, according to University of Oxford professor Robin Dunbar.

150, 50, 15, 5. Those are the magic numbers in the sociology of friendship, according to University of Oxford professor Robin Dunbar. 150 is the number of casual friends an average person has. From there, we tend to have 50 people we classify as close friends, meaning we would invite them to a group dinner. 15 is the number of friends (and family) we can count on for sympathy and to whom we can disclose most things. 5 people represent our core support group, often composed partly of family members--we call these people our best friends.


The outer limit on human social groups stands at about 1,500, representing the maximum number of people we can identify correctly by putting a name to a face. So what about those who boast more than 1,500 friends on Facebook? Have social media extended our capacity to be friends with others? That's unlikely, says those who follow Dunbar's research:

"With social media, we can easily keep up with the lives and interests of far more than a hundred and fifty people. But without investing the face-to-face time, we lack deeper connections to them, and the time we invest in superficial relationships comes at the expense of more profound ones."

In his Big Think interview, physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis argues that who we count among our circle of friends partly determines our own behavior. This is due to the natural tendency of humans to mimic one another. So who do you mimic? And why?

Read more at the New Yorker

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A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

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  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
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