In the video, Randall tells us that he has 25-30 friends on Facebook, a number within Robin Dunbar’s limit for semi-close to reasonably affiliated friends and acquaintances.
This is clearly a joke in the video, but one that follows the British anthropologist’s logic of the second innermost circle of friendship and trust. So what’s interesting is the social dissonance between:
a) Dunbar’s primatological claim that 25-30 is a large amount of the friend connections our human brains can contain, and
b) viewers laughing when Randall says that because it’s relatively such a microscopic amount of friends compared to most college users having between 800-1200.
Is Randall more accurate and honest about who his online friends are than the average UNC Facebooker, or is he just anti-social and obnoxious enough that only 25 people will say they know him on the site?
Dunbar’s “Number” is 150: the maximum number of human contacts he says our brains can hold a degree of intimacy with at one time. Leisa Reichelt claims a new “ambient intimacy” is developing in places like reddit online, where community and connection are fostered in lieu of physical intimacy because of barriers like time, space, and transportation.
Will Dunbar eventually reconfigure his model based on the changing nature of interpersonal relationships via the Internet? Are Randall and the rest of reddit actually ahead of the curve on this one? Only time will tell (and even if it does, there will still be critics towards it).