social media

Dunbar’s Number

by Vicki on December 6, 2013

How many friends do you have on Facebook? Followers on Twitter? Connections on LinkedIn? How many social groups do you belong to? How many co-workers do you connect with? How often do you meet with family and friends?

Connections to other people matter.

In fact, research suggests that one of the greatest predictors of happiness is social relationships.

But how much is too much?

This week, I was reminded of a concept that sheds light on our ability to develop and maintain relationships – Dunbar’s Number. Dunbar’s Number is:

…a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.  Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150.

Reading through all the online chatter about Dunbar’s Number and how it applies to today’s world leaves me with more questions/thoughts than answers.

On one hand I think that too many relationships can be physically, emotionally and cognitively taxing and over stimulating. My perspective is that we simply cannot care deeply about and really connect with 1000s of people. Our cognitive limits come into play.

But on the other hand, having many connections in place can be useful and fulfilling.

What I think matters is:

Recognizing that our technical ability, speed and ease to connect with people is changing quickly.

But that our ability to connect with others is constrained by the limits of human cognitive capacities.

The concept of Dunbar’s Number provides us with an interesting concept through which we can think about the relationships we have. How do we connect with others? What is the quality of those connections? Are there relationships to grow? Some to cut?

As it does with most things in life, I think it all comes down to balance and awareness.


The Validation of Selfies?!

by Trudy on November 22, 2013

This week I heard two things that piqued my interest. First, Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” the word of 2013 (who thought anything could beat out twerking?!). Secondly there were awards given out for the best “selfie” at the Web Awards.


First, let’s clarify what a selfie is, for those of us over the age of 34 who may need a quick briefing.

A selfie is a picture you take of yourself on your digital camera, usually your phone. Some people, particularly in the under 34 category, and often female, feel a compulsion to then broadly share this self-important bit of photography with the world by posting it online.

By my tone, you may sense that I do not see the utility of such actions.

HOWEVER, I realized there has got to be more to this if it is gaining such traction, so I felt the urge to look into the magic of selfies to understand it better.

Aside from common vernacular and an awards category to support it, I found some other interesting data.

  • Research indicates that TWO THIRDS of Australian women 18-35 have taken selfies in the past year
  • And Samsung did research indicating THIRTY percent of photos taken by an 18-24 year old are selfies.

And honestly, selfies have been around as long as people could record their images on a device (pictures in the mirror? madly running to pose before the timer on the camera goes off). Today it just is more convenient, easier to do. We just see it more because of the publishing tool known as the web. (But I will remind all of us that just because you took it does not mean you need to share it!!!)

Many regard selfies as the penultimate example of the narcissistic, superficial, self-absorbed efforts of people with low self-esteem seeking social validation.


It sounds really ugly when you actually write it down. And just in case I was being too quick to judge, I thought I better get enlightened on the upside real fast.

On the upside, if we did not have a selfie revolution, we would not have glimpses into significant, and genuinely personal moments like the awesome selfie from Chris Hadfield floating around in space. That is something we all can marvel at. We would also lose a potential tool of insight and revelations for our technologically integrated youth. The natural process of self-exploration is part of their world and so is technology, used responsibly they can learn a lot about themselves with their visual documentations.

But what I really came to see, is that selfies are actually one more step in the democratization of media. Published portraiture has typically been exclusively for the important, the celebrated, and the paid. And mostly, these folks just aren’t, well us, “normal”. And the selfie is the self-published portrait that celebrates real people, in all our funny, ugly, beautiful, un-perfect ways that humans really are. Whether the “art” is aware, pretentious, meaningful, meaningless it has a place in moving the power back to the larger society, and that is something I can fundamentally support.

And truthfully, at the beginning of any major cultural revolution, people are just trying to figure out how best to use it. My neighbor thinking she looks hot in her new jeans (even if she does). I still think that she does not need to share it with the world, but I get the big picture now. And time will teach us appropriateness.

I happily write enlightened before you, and not quite ready to do the selfie just yet. But I applaud those that are forging ahead.

Happy snapping!



by Vicki on May 31, 2013

I’m so intrigued by humans – why we are the way we are, how we think, our relationships, our motivations, our emotions….as much time as I’ve spent thinking and studying people, I continue to be awed by our complexity.

A couple months ago, my intrigue of all things human drew me in to a photography blog that showcases people and their experiences in New York. The blog was started in November of 2010 by Brandon Stanton and is called Humans of New York (HONY).

HONY resulted from an idea that I had to construct a photographic census of New York City. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.

Since the blog’s inception, hundreds of “Human” blogs have been developed. This tells me that I am not alone in my intrigue. People thirst to see and understand the experience of others in their day-to-day existence.

One of the features of the site that I absolutely love is a Stories section. In this section, people or groups of people are featured visually and short stories on aspects of their lives are chronicled.

Just a word of caution, if you love people and trying to understand their experience, the blog is addictive. The pictures are spectacular, the stories are absorbing and new content is added daily.



An A+ in Authenticity

April 26, 2013

I was perusing a favourite company’s materials recently and came across a note from its leader that made my strategic heart sing. Mainly because what PROVOKE has always held to be true, and share with every client we work with, was in print right before my eyes, being shared with its customers: The company is […]

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Just Respond

February 22, 2013

My last blog post examined social media trends over the past year through an infographic. As I was compiling the post, one stat in particular jumped out at me: 70% of brands ignore complaints on Twitter Consumers who have taken time and effort to communicate regarding brands in a public and exponentially powerful forum hearing […]

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