A friend of mine read my last post and wrote:
“Let me offer a counter-posit: the Web is also an environment where loose connections (many of which I WOULD call superficial) can gain disproportionate weight compared with deeper, more substantive connections…
But in the current Web 2.0 world, the emphasis for many is in HOW MANY "loose" connections they can make, not how many of the "right" connections. Consider the emphasis on crowdsourcing (Wikipedia) over authority (Brittanica), and how the former is seen as "better" my many online enthusiasts.
I’m no Andrew Keen, and I won’t say that the current emphasis on broad over deep is necessarily a disaster. But I think it is definitely a mixed bag.”
This is an important point. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that having a million friends on Facebook makes you more “connected” than having personal relationships with 150 of the “right” people. What I’m suggesting is that you can now have 150 strong ties AND a lot of loose ties with more people who are also the “right” people for you to know. This does not mean having thousands of negligible connections with random people.
For instance, on Twitter I follow about 150 people (interesting to see if reflect the Dunbar number, although that’s not intentional on my part). I can’t see the value in following 10,000 people the way some people do. By diluting the relationships to that extreme, I might as well not connect at all. But with the smaller list of people I follow on Twitter (some of whom I know personally, some of whom I don’t), I’m able to quickly take a very loose tie and quickly ramp it up into an email exchange, phone call or in person meeting.
So when my friend points out the fallacy of emphasizing the number of social network connection you have, I agree. Social media based networks just allow us to break Dunbar’s 150 person limit and establish valuable ties with maybe 1,500 people (which happens to be the limit shown in the green circles in the ambient intimacy chart from my last post). That means we can expand out access to collective wisdom by a factor of 10. But it still doesn’t let us have meaningful ties with 150,000 people.