Rehumanising my social networks

Something’s been troubling me recently as I’ve searched my soul (and my networks) to find ‘the answer’ to my future. Immersing myself in all things digital in preparation for launching an internet startup there’s a question I keep coming back to. In our quest to get more connected online, are we overlooking perhaps the internet’s greatest potential – to help us find more meaningful connections?

I thought I was pretty well connected with my 1200+ LinkedIn “Connections” and hundreds of Facebook “Friends”. I don’t yet have Twitter “Followers” but in reality that is probably a more accurate description of many of the people in my network. We have at some point crossed paths and agreed to ‘follow’ each others’ online activities but it is very hard to quantify how meaningful those relationships actually are. So what constitutes a meaningful positive relationship and is it possible to have one online?

Martin Seligman, father of positive pyschology and author of Flourish counts relationships as one of the five motivations of free human beings, abbreviated as PERMA. P is positive emotion, E is engagement, R is relationships, M is meaning and A is accomplishment. He further defines a positive relationship as being authentically connected to others. I know I am lucky to have many authentic relationships, but certainly not with everyone in my network as defined by my number of LinkedIn Connections and Facebook Friends.

So how many of my relationships can I expect to be meaningful? Well, 150 according to Dunbar’s number (Robin Dunbar), a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. This (according to Wikipedia) is the number of people my brain can handle where I know¬†who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. But I thought that was what Facebook and LinkedIn were for?

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been picking up the phone and getting out and meeting with people. Its so oldskool but so far, I haven’t found a website that can tell me how meaningful or positive my relationships are. I’m sure there are many in development or perhaps I will come up with one, but for now I’m really enjoying the conversations and seeing where they take me!

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