Robin Dunbar: Why you cannot have more than 150 real friends

Kinship vs. friendship, the cognitive demands of monogamy, or why 400 Facebook friends may be a health hazard.

In 1992, anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar proposed Dunbar’s Number — a theoretical cognitive limit on the number of people with whom we can maintain viable social relationships. He pinned that number at 148, or roughly 150. But how does this translate to today’s social media environment of 400-friend Facebook profiles — does it help us beat Dunbar’s number?

I had the pleasure of guest blogging on Brain Pickings this week. To read the full article please click here.


  • Zengirl @ happy heart and mind


    I agree, although I still 150 or even 148 is high numbers of social contacts, you can not really know them or do justice by having so many online contacts, that is why I am not on social media. Does it hurt my blog? may be, but I rather spend time with my kids than on social media for now.

  • Filip Matous

    Love it Zengirl,

    Thanks for being an example of EXACTLY what this blog is about. Staying true and doing what is important. Family comes first, and even though I encouraged you to get on social media I am happier that you stuck to your guns.

    “Rather spend time with my kids.” Keep standing strong.

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  • nate aikele

    Mr Amazing-

    I was just thinking about how many people I actually keep in contact with and I would struggle with coming up with even 100 possibilities, this philosophy on the ceiling of friends makes logical sense.

  • Filip Matous

    Broski, I totally agree; if I had to name 100 people I keep in somewhat regular touch with, on my own without access to any online list, I would seriously struggle.

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  • Kristy McInnis

    wow – 150 sounds like A LOT of friends to keep up with. even though i have 500 + facebook “friends” i would say i don’t keep in touch with more than 50ish on a semi-regular basis.

  • Filip Matous

    Haha, yeah I agree Kristy, 150 is far far too many friends. I have some 400+ fb friends but as for real amigos I’m happy with a handful that have my back. I think 150 means acquaintances and people you are aware of to some degree.

    I had some thoughts on this:

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