LinkedIn and the Meaning of Connections

6 03 2012

I’ve just passed the 500 mark on LinkedIn and it feels wrong.  Let me explain.  I can’t possible know 500 people.  I’m fascinated and largely persuaded by the work of  British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

His theory known as ‘Dunbar’s number’ is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable relationships. That’s the sort where I know someone, they know me and we understand our relationship.  It is commonly held to be around 150. Dunbar says the “limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size”.

So how did I get here, my LinkedIn group was a list of people who I knew well personally or more commonly had worked with as colleagues, client, supplier or partners in various projects. So what went wrong? Why don’t I really know all of the people who I purport on-line to be connected to?  Here is my list of ways in which I think it’s gone wrong.

  • I’ve been on LinkedIn for around five years. Some people I knew well then, I don’t know well any more.
  • In building up my initial contact list I was probably over enthusiastic about finding and adding people.
  • A desire not to offend. I wrote a note to someone a couple of years ago politely declining an invitation to connect as we had no previous connection.  I received a vitriolic reply.  I still decline these invitations but accept others where the connection is tenuous.
  • Confusion. I think many people have a different view to mine on the nature of LinkedIn and networking on-line in general.

It may not matter but my network is clearly, to me and anyone that looks in, now a loose one. LinkedIn doesn’t annotate my actual number of connections any more. I’m like many other people a 500+.

Is there something I should do differently? There probably is. I should regard my online network as the loose association that it is and concentrate more on my real world network.  Obvious when you think about it.








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