Dunbar's Number: How To Manage More Connections


In today's hyper-connected world, managing our social relationships has become more challenging than ever before. With the advent of social media and technology, our networks have expanded exponentially.

However, there is a limit to the number of meaningful connections we can maintain, a concept known as Dunbar's Number. Understanding Dunbar's Number and strategies to manage more connections can help us navigate the complexities of our personal and professional relationships effectively.

Dunbar's Number is a theory proposed by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who suggests that there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

According to Dunbar, this number ranges between 100 and 250, with the average being around 150. Beyond this limit, our ability to keep track of relationships, remember details, and invest time and effort diminishes.

The Science Behind Dunbar's Number

a brain

Several factors contribute to the establishment of Dunbar's Number. One key factor is the size of our neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for social cognition. The neocortex, which includes the prefrontal cortex, plays a vital role in processing social information and managing relationships. Its size limits the number of connections we can handle effectively.

But what exactly does it mean for our neocortex to limit our social connections? Well, imagine your brain as a bustling city, with each connection representing a person. Just like in a city, there are only so many people you can truly know and maintain relationships with.

It's like trying to remember the names, faces, and personal details of every single person you've ever encountered in a crowded metropolis. It's simply not feasible, and the same goes for our social connections beyond Dunbar's Number.

Additionally, research has shown that humans are inclined to form hierarchies within their social networks, with closer relationships occupying the inner circles. These inner circles require more time and effort, leaving fewer resources available for maintaining peripheral connections beyond Dunbar's Number.

Imagine your social network as a series of concentric circles, with your closest friends and family at the center. These are the people you invest the most time and energy into, the ones you trust and rely on.

As you move further out from the center, the connections become more casual and less significant. It's like the ripple effect of a stone thrown into a pond - the closer you are to the center, the stronger the impact of your relationships.

The Significance of Dunbar's Number in Social Networks

Dunbar and socail networks

Understanding Dunbar's Number is crucial for individuals and businesses alike, as it helps us set realistic expectations for our social interactions.

Recognizing that we have a limited capacity for maintaining meaningful connections allows us to allocate our time and energy more effectively.

Imagine if you had an unlimited number of friends, followers, and connections on social media. It might sound appealing at first, but the truth is, it would be overwhelming and unsustainable.

By acknowledging Dunbar's Number, we can focus on cultivating quality relationships rather than getting caught up in the numbers game.

For social media platforms and networking sites, Dunbar's Number highlights the importance of designing systems that prioritize quality over quantity. Rather than encouraging users to accumulate vast numbers of connections, platforms should foster genuine engagement and meaningful interactions.

This means creating spaces where users can truly connect with others, share ideas, and build relationships that go beyond surface-level interactions.

Imagine a social media platform that values depth over breadth, emphasizing building a supportive community rather than amassing a large number of followers.

Such platforms would not only benefit individuals by allowing them to form more meaningful connections, but they would also create a more authentic and enriching online experience for everyone involved.

Strategies to Manage More Connections

digital contacts

While Dunbar's Number suggests that we have a natural limit to the number of relationships we can maintain, there are strategies we can employ to maximize our social connections without feeling overwhelmed.

1. Prioritizing Your Connections

a table with your personal connections

Understanding the importance of prioritizing relationships allows us to invest our time and energy wisely. By identifying our core group of close friends, family members, and professional contacts, we can allocate more resources to nurture those relationships.

This allows us to maintain a strong support system while still engaging with a broader network.

When prioritizing our connections, it's essential to consider the quality of the relationships rather than just the quantity.

We can focus on those individuals who truly add value to our lives and reciprocate the effort we put into the connection. By doing so, we create a solid foundation for meaningful and fulfilling interactions.

2. Utilizing Technology for Connection Management

Social networks for contact management

Technology can be a valuable tool in managing our connections within the boundaries of Dunbar's Number. Using digital contact management tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software or digital business cards, we can track and categorize our relationships more effectively.

These tools can help us stay connected, remember important information, and facilitate meaningful interactions.

Moreover, technology offers us the opportunity to connect with a wider range of individuals who share our interests and passions. Online communities, social media platforms, and virtual networking events enable us to expand our network beyond geographical limitations.

We can engage with like-minded individuals through these digital channels, exchange ideas, and build new connections that enrich our personal and professional lives.

However, it's important to strike a balance between online and offline interactions. While technology provides convenience and efficiency, nothing can replace the depth and authenticity of face-to-face connections.

Therefore, we should make an effort to meet our connections in person whenever possible, as it strengthens the bond and fosters a deeper sense of trust and understanding.

The Impact of Dunbar's Number on Personal and Professional Relationships


Dunbar's Number, a concept coined by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, suggests that humans have a cognitive limit to the number of stable social relationships they can maintain.

This number is estimated to be around 150, although it can vary depending on individual factors. Understanding the implications of Dunbar's Number can have a profound effect on the quality of our personal and professional relationships.

While social media platforms and digital connectivity have made it easier than ever to accumulate a large number of connections, Dunbar's Number reminds us that true fulfillment lies in building deep and meaningful relationships.

Instead of spreading ourselves thin by trying to maintain a vast network of acquaintances, investing time and effort in nurturing genuine connections can lead to greater satisfaction and fulfillment in our interactions.

By focusing on quality over quantity, we can develop a sense of trust, intimacy, and emotional support within our relationships.

These deeper connections allow for more meaningful conversations, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging. Whether it's with family, friends, or romantic partners, understanding Dunbar's Number encourages us to prioritize the relationships that truly matter.

The Role of Dunbar's Number in Networking

Balancing your social network

In the professional realm, Dunbar's Number takes on a different significance. It highlights the importance of cultivating strong and authentic connections within our industry. Rather than engaging in superficial networking with as many people as possible, professionals should focus on building meaningful relationships with peers and mentors.

These authentic connections can lead to more significant opportunities, collaborations, and professional growth. By investing in relationships based on trust, shared values, and mutual support, professionals can create a network that goes beyond mere transactional interactions. This network becomes a valuable resource for knowledge sharing, career advice, and potential partnerships.

Overcoming the Limitations of Dunbar's Number

socialresponsibilityWhile Dunbar's Number suggests that our social circles have natural limits, there are ways we can overcome these limitations and expand our networks responsibly.

By being intentional about who we add to our networks, we can expand beyond Dunbar's Number without sacrificing the quality of our relationships. It's essential to consider the value and potential for meaningful connections when expanding our social circles. This ensures that we maintain a balance between quantity and quality.


As technology continues to advance, our understanding of Dunbar's Number and its implications may evolve. With the rise of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, we might find new ways to manage and maintain meaningful connections beyond traditional limitations. However, it will be vital to approach these advancements with caution and ensure that technology enhances rather than replaces genuine human interactions.

In conclusion, Dunbar's Number provides valuable insights into the limits of our social connections and the importance of managing them effectively. By understanding this concept and implementing strategies to manage more connections, we can navigate the complexities of our personal and professional relationships in a meaningful and fulfilling way.