After Julie’s Learner Lecture on Dunbar’s number, the subject has been on my mind for quite a bit. In particular the part about how people are replaced by others when ties are weakened. As a person who takes friendship very seriously and prefers small, extremely tight friend groups to meeting a lot of acquaintances, it pains me to think that every time I talk to a friend, I am possibly compromising the time and relationship I have with another person. As a graduating senior, I have heard from friends that have graduated about the loneliness of being an introvert working adult fresh out of school. It’s true – when you don’t see your friends every day like you do in school, ties weaken and relationships change.
Unconsciously, I have been reacting to Dunbar’s number all this while. At the end of summer, I told myself that for the next year, I will only keep relationships that count. I will only meet new people and make new friends if they are introduced by close friends and have the potential to develop into long lasting relationships, knowing subconsciously that I do not have the social capacity to ‘deal with that many people’. So far, I believe my techniques have been fairly successful. I see the friends I truly care about at school nearly everyday, and have made a handful of new friends whom I consider to have entered my ‘close circle’ (probably in the process displacing some others). Even though as someone who has been working for years and who will be entering the workforce full time soon, I am always told that I need to network, but I think my time in a Japanese company has taught me one very important thing about relationships: it takes time.
Whether it’s a professional relationship or friendship, in order for it to become a close tie, it takes time. And we are talking about years. I once worked for a Bay Area start-up that wanted me to liason with an ancient big-name Japanese company for them. I spoke to the Japanese company which was amicable and told the start-up that if we continued the friendly relationship between the two companies and in time prove that the start-up is trustworthy and profitable, we would be able to move towards the next step. The start-up refused because ‘start-ups have no time for such things’. I eventually left the start-up and found out that their deal with the Japanese company fell through and now they have retracted completely from the Japanese market despite a hopeful start.
It also takes regular maintenance, as Dunbar’s number has pointed out (although not in the sense of a physical interaction). That’s the reason why all Japanese companies send out New Year cards to their partners, VIP customers and investors annually – not to appeal to them in case they come in useful in the future, but to thank them for keeping a relationship and in some cases, to show that ‘they care’. (This is probably also the case with Christmas cards here/in UK, even though I don’t know how many people still religiously keep up the practice)
In a very similar sense, I believe that managing social media is the same thing. Everyone has a ‘Dunbar’s number’ for how many social media sources or how much online information they can consume. This is why successful social media accounts not only post regularly, but also post good content, because you have to maintain the relationship with your followers, or you will eventually get replaced by another source.
I digress. As I gear up to leave school, I will always remind myself of the kind of friend and person that I want to be. I want to value quality over quantity, and I want to be a person that truly treasures each of my relationships, instead of having many that can ‘advance my career’. I don’t believe in aggressively seeking forging relationships for the sake of moving upwards. This is perhaps a difference in mindset with many people, but I think of it as analogical to a newbie blogger – if you keep at what you do, and value that people that follow you and read your blog, eventually something good will come out of it. So far, this has proven to be a good mantra for me, and I think I will bookmark this post so that I can always go back to it if I ever do lose myself.