150 is a nice, round approximation of what is known as the Dunbar Number. Named after British anthropologist, who was seeking for correlation between the brain size (more specifically – the most recently evolved part of cortex) in primates and the span of their social network. Initial estimation, based on a relatively small sample of data was burdened with a significant measurement error – but a few other studies concluded with similar results (while couple of others with at least the same order of magnitude.)
The figure is consistent with my daily experience at least. I can name, from the top of my head, around 150 people that I know enough (meaning e.g. being able to tell something significant about some non-obvious features of their character or to tell an anecdote somehow related to them) and do in fact maintain some form of social interaction with.
Now, having close to a thousand connections on LinkedIn – and being far from an exception in this regard on the portal – forces me to think on how really should we perceive such social network. From some time, 3 out of 4 invitations I receive are roughly speaking sales offers. I only started to pay attention relatively recently – and am no more accepting those invites who don’t even try to disguise their vending process in some creative form.
The wholity of one’s network, the number of entities within – let’s call it the Nominal Social Network – won’t say a thing about the true value of it. But if we relate it to the number of meaningful entities within our connections – we can craft a measurement of one’s social network quality (SNQ). For the sake of simplicity and speeding up the calculation, we can assume that the Dunbar Number applies.
In my case the SNQ not even reaching 20% does make me consider revisiting the list at first. But does the extra non-core 80% generate any kind of burden? It surely dissolves the idea of a trusted network, but it’s the total number of connections that will, for example constitute the audience of this blog post – which might be considered a value.
Let me know what do you think in the comments!