How many people do you know with whom you have a real relationship.? When I look at the numbers of contacts/friends/followers that some people have on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter it appears there are many people who have hundreds and even thousands on their list.
The proliferation of social media sites has created an environment where being “connected” with someone does not have the same connotation it once did. There seems to be some confusion about the value of these contacts and what it really means. Social media enables you to get the word out to vast numbers of people in a very short period of time. On such a vast scale, social media should not be confused with relationship building. Sometimes relationships develop, but those are isolated instances rather than common place occurrences.
Robin Dunbar is the director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, author of How Many Friend Does One Person Need? According to Mr. Dunbar, 150 people are the most any one person can be in a relationship with involving trust and obligation. These are relationships where there is some personal history, not just names and faces and perhaps the occasional shared tweet. The reason for this is simple, it takes energy, time, and mental capacity to build and maintain relationships. According to our brain capacity, 150 is the limit.
Beyond the 150 number, the tie that binds you to greater numbers of people are superficial and never extend beyond the occasional message, tweet, or shared photo. Social media has created a new way for you to “keep in touch” with those you would probably never have contact with again before these vehicles became so prominent.
The question I have is if you are spreading yourself thin by trying to maintain some form of relationship with vast numbers of people, are you diluting even the ones that would fall into the category of “real” relationships? Are you confusing followers with supporters?
I think instead of trying to grow your contacts or following by including large numbers of people who you cannot develop any sort of relationship with, your time might be better spent deepening the ones that could be part of your tribe - those who support you and what you do and those you can support in return.
The challenge is to increase the breadth of your relationships without sacrificing the depth. There are many ways to increase your tribe to ensure that the connections between all of you continue to provide value to everyone involved. So ask yourself:
Have I succeeded in deepening my relationships to a level where I can provide support?
How many meaningful relationships do I have?
Am I anywhere near my Dunbar number of 150?
Do I have the right people in my 150?
If not, what steps can I take to move myself forward?
Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.
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