Hello everyone! It’s been a while since my last post on this blog. Forgive my absence, was busy on many things, primarily surviving in life and writing down my bachelor’s thesis (yeay finally!).
Now! Earlier this morning I saw an interesting link being retweeted by a friend(heads up, this term will appear frequently) in my twitter timeline. It was from e27, stating that Path will raise the friend limit from 150 to 500.
you can read more about the article cited here.
This brought my mind back to some time a go, where I was writing a thesis proposal about Path. I read many many articles regarding this so called “the personal network”, became a user to actually obtain the real experience and found a lot of interesting items regarding this unique mobile-only social media. That particular thesis proposal got rejected unofficially, but since I already obtained a slice of knowledge about Path so I’m going to share my findings in this post, not in an academic approach. I’ll make it light, promise.
How many friends do you have on your Facebook account? Pew Research Center, as quoted by The Guardian (2014) stated that the average number of friends in Facebook is 338 and half of the whole 1.23 billion Facebook user is connected to more than 200 friends. That’s a worldwide scale data. But if you take a look to most of Indonesian users, for instance, they are virtually very sociable that they could maxed out the friend list: that’s ultimately 5000 friends. As if it’s not enough, they’re gonna add a ‘full’ word on their display name and made another account to add more friends. Assuming that they maxed that out too, that’s 10.000 people
connected to befriending one. I myself got 946, surprisingly low because most of my Facebook friends that are Indonesian would have 2000 or so.
The question is, do you really own 5.000 friends?
This is my deduction. I’d define friend as persons who are emotionally engaged with me in a certain basis, be it quality or quantity. Some of them are engaged because we simply meet each other in daily basis. There are also people that, although I only met them in a short time span(say, a week) but in an intense interaction quality, considered as my friends too. So when we part, I don’t feel any awkwardness by randomly commenting their posts despite I never meet them again for years. But as for those who I met for a day or two, or just happen to know each other but I rarely had an interaction with them, they are considerably not my friends. Sounds a bit harsh, I know. But try to reflect to your facebook account. Out of the entire 5000 ‘friends’, how many of them that are emotionally engaged to you, mutually? The answer is, less than 150. 153.5, to be precise.
Introducing the Dunbar’s Number. Invented by Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist, this is a number that reflected exactly the human’s natural capability of building a social network. According to Dunbar, 150 is the maximum number of social reciprocal connection that could be established. Any social connections made exceeding that number would be considered a formal based, without any social engagement. This is human nature, as quoted on an interview with Dunbar by The Business Week in 2013:
In the same way that human beings can’t breathe underwater or run the 100-meter dash in 2.5 seconds or see microwaves with the naked eye, most cannot maintain many more than 150 meaningful relationships. – Robin Dunbar, 2013
Come to think of it, your most intense and frequent interaction on any social media e.g Facebook would never exceed 150, right? Those people with 5000 friends, I bet they never actually met most of them in real life. I had a friend that approved all of his Facebook friend requests even if when he doesn’t know them. And I’m pretty sure that he’s not the only one doing that.
Putting it another way, it’s the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar. – Robin Dunbar, 2013
Let’s conclude so far that human’s natural social circle is small, as what Dunbar stated. Back in 2010, an ex-Facebook officer named Dave Morin saw an opportunity regarding that idea, and used it as a philosophy to built the 2014 social media rising star: Path.
The name described it self. Unlike Facebook that became your online avatar or Twitter where you can lash out your thoughts rapidly about anything in a limited 140 characters, Path was designed as a life journal. It as a place to note down the path that you have been through; hence it has this timeline user interface with exact time stamp and called your posts as ‘moments’. The team behind were fully aware that today people are attached to their cellphone almost all the time, therefore they made Path available for mobile phone platform only. The circle designs, the radial movements of the lower left ‘post’ button, the bounce effect to refresh the timeline, everything was designed to be as human as possible.
Including the friend limit policy. Morin deliberately stated in many interviews that he built Path based on the Dunbar’s number. This is again, because Path was designed to be the most human social media. They acknowledge that one doesn’t simply share everything with anyone; only with the special ones instead. The ones that will congratulate you sincerely when you got hired for your first job. The ones that truthfully wish you a happy birthday instead of those who wrote ‘hbd’ on your facebook wall. The ones that will actually hug you when you’re feeling blue, and laugh at your funny moments. There are a limited number of person who will do this for you, and Path understood this well.
This is what they said in their official page.
Then again, some habits grow old. I was told that there are Path users that maxed out their friend list, add a ‘full’ word on their display name and opened a new one. Not to replace, but to add. I bet most of them remained in the list and having minimum to none interaction nevertheless.
Despite the anomalies, I was astounded. I mean I always follow the trend of social media since I was at the junior high – I had a Yahoo! account that is still active until the very moment, I joined Friendster, Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, Instagram but I think none of those were built on a deep thought as Path.
Until the last two days, when Path users were seen befriending many people at once. After a quick browse, it was suspected that the event was due to Path’s option (and policy) to allow users to sync their Path account to their Facebook. I didn’t follow the trend though, since I’m already aware that most of my Facebook friends was outside the 150 border. And finally some people tweeted that Path users’ friend list is reaching 500 per today.
I was a bit disappointed, I thought that step was a flop and became a direct backstab to its prior philosophy. You can maxed out your friend list, but just try to be a bit objective and see the number of friends that you enjoy interacting with in Path. You can thank Mr. Dunbar later.
Credits to Mbak Tania for suggesting the Path themed thesis proposal. I’m sorry I couldn’t conduct the research :)