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.