In his TED talk, Robin Dunbar argues that the internet can not “buy” you more friends due to to a cognitive limit on the amount of close relationships we can have via the internet.
Dunbar supports his argument by explaining a study that analyzed types of communities, all around the size of 150 people, and asking what these communities meant to the individuals. Dunbar digs into these relationships and explains that the cognitive ability to have these relationships and manage social interactions comes from brain regions behind the eyes and ears. Dunbar also argues that the amount of time invested in a relationship determines the strength, depth and emotional connection of the relationship. Dunbar says that on average we have about 5 intimate relationships, however these relationships have the most depth and take up a lot of our time (3/4) of our social time. He also says that if we fail to invest time in our relationships, they will decay. Dunbar argues that platforms like Facebook are geared toward the way women interact, however less so for the way men interact, as men gain social closeness through doing things together.
Overall, I found Dunbar’s TED talk interesting and I appreciated the connections he made to the processes in the brain and how this affects our interactions. One thing I found particularly interesting is Dunbar’s argument that beginning a romantic relationship “costs you a friend” due to the amount of time you must invest in the relationship, ultimately taking away from your 5 relationship quota. This makes me wonder, what does this mean for long distance relationships? Does the time spent to create true social closeness also need to be physical closeness, or can the time itself being invested through phone calls or virtual interactions be enough?