Dunbar on Friends

Even Facebook can’t help you have more than 150 real friends

  1. We have about 5 people in our support group of closest friends. (aka Must Friends: a best friend, a member of your inner circle, a person you count on when something big happens in your life)
  2. We have about 15 more people in the sympathy group with whom we confide. (aka Trust friend: a friend who shows integrity, someone you feel comfortable with, that you’re always glad to see, but not in your inmost circle; perhaps someone you’d like to be closer to, if you had the time or opportunity)
  3. 50 more are are close friends (aka Rust friend: a person you’ve known for a long, long time; you’re probably not going to get any closer to that person, unless something changes, but a part of your life)
  4. 150 more a casual friends (aka Just friends: a person you see — at a weekly poker game, at your child’s school — who is enjoyable company, but you have no desire to socialize outside a specific context or to get to know that person better)
  5. 500 more are acquaintances.

Total: 720
And… we can identify about 1500 faces.

Me? I sometimes have about one person in the support group. My sympathy group is probably about right with 15-16 people. My close friends and casual friends are smaller than they ought to be with lots and lots of acquaintances.

Also, certainly people move up into a better category as we get closer. And others fall down into a lower one as we lose touch.

2016-MAR-08: Updated with the Buddy System labels


2 thoughts on “Dunbar on Friends

  1. […] In Dunbar on Friends I wrote about the different kinds of friends. In the Savanna Theory of Happiness, people living in sparse density areas and with higher frequency interactions with close friends are happier. Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman Li leverage Dunbar to basically explain we are happier when in smaller communities because our evolution has not yet caught up to our societies. Only… More intelligent people have the capacity to thrive in more dense areas without as much time with their friends. […]

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