Social Architecture: My 145 BFs

Social Architecture: My 145 BFs


I just noticed that I had 145 best friends (BF) on Facebook.  So, I decided to look at my other social networking gizmos.  I have 123 followers on Twitter and 81 people in my LinkedIn network.  So what?   


Well, I am probably more “socially active” on Facebook, so I pondered on that a bit.  As the tall, introverted bookworm in school I had a #1 best girl friend (BGF), a #2 BGF, and a #3 BGF.  That’s it!  The number 145 is starting to “feel” like a lot and I wondered why.  Is there a limit to the number of BFs I can have?


Social networking technology has helped this introverted school girl expand her social network from 3 BFs to 145.  I don’t think this replaces the traditional live contact, but it augments my ability to socialize.  The blog, Real World Marketing for the Social Web, suggests that digital relationships, while admittedly low-resolution, are as legitimate as real relationships. 


So, my husband, who in my opinion, is socially gifted with old-fashioned, engaging, West Virginia charm looks at me incredulously.  Why do you read that stuff (Facebook)?  I tell him it’s like going to happy hour and catching up with friends, except I’m drinking my bedtime tea, listening to the news, and can get it done in five minutes.  Here’s a sample of what I get from my BF’s status on Facebook:


  • Chris got a haircut.  I actually saw him at ELC and he looked pretty good – too bad he’s on the radio and you can’t see him.
  • Martha’s daughter is in town again.  She’s going to be in a really a good mood at our next meeting.  I’ve got to remember to get a dinner meeting w/ her.
  • Helene’s feeling blue because of layoffs at her job.  I need to make a note to call Dale to see how he’s doing.
  • Leslie’s off to Nicaragua again.  She’s going to save the world one brick at a time.
  • Dan is off on his motorcycle again.  He won’t be able to move in the morning.
  • Pete is sucking a lollypop.  He doesn’t need sugar; it will make him more excitable.
  • I have no clue who Henrí is, but I learn a lot from his interesting posts. 
  • Emma said the colloquium topic on prediction markets went well.  Wish, I had a chance to go.
  • Alvin is singing today.  He needs to whistle while he works and email me that paper.
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is still in the chamber.  We’ll all be glad when it gets out.
  • LCROSS Lunar Impactor is having a good run of successes. That’s good news; I guess I’ll hear more at the Friday program reviews.
  • Casey is feeling patriotic and wants to buy a of couple cars.  I’m sure she’ll change her mind and just buy a couple of pairs of shoes instead after things settle down at GSA.
  • My brother and sister-in-law are spending the weekend in St. Michaels.  I’m glad he called our Mom today.


This technology has proven valuable for my leadership needs as a CIO.  I am able to learn faster and stay in touch a little better with my customers, peers, stakeholders, and employees.  In Consumer Evolution, Charles Grantham and Judith Carr suggest that the outcomes are invaluable for leaders:


… [We] get access to a larger social network, which speeds up learning, and decreases information search costs. …. [However, we] see more stress from being overwhelmed by information, anxiety coming from a more fluid social and, a lack of individual identity because of the invisible nature of our new social life. 


Stress huh.  Dunbar’s number suggests a reason that my brain may be thinking, “enough already!”  This number, commonly sited as 150, was suggested by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, to be “the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity … on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”  Ok BFs, there’s only room for 5 more!


Well, the Wall Street Journal article, Sorry, You May Have Gone Over Your Limit Of Network Friends, suggests that “just as humans have developed and harnessed technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information” the social networking technology will enable us to burst beyond our Dunbar’s number.  I guess this begs the question of defining exactly what a relationship is. 


I am vigilant to not become like Dr. Frankenstein and let this monster … uh … valuable technology tool … called social networking relationships destroy me – or let social networking destroy my relationships.  I had an occasion to attempt to hook up with a colleague and we had dueling text messages.  So, it occurred to me, duh, why don’t I just pick up the phone and call? While these Web 2.0 gizmos are excellent learning and networking tools, they augment but don’t replace live interactions. 


I truly love my husband’s warm, folksy old-school charm.  Alas, you don’t get that in Web 2.0.  But, then there’s always Web 3.0. 




Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

12 thoughts on “Social Architecture: My 145 BFs”

  1. I am more of same as you a fan for social networks , from youtube to bebo to facebook to tagged to twitter. I loved which are all my personal interest.

  2. There have been a lot of studies on the psychological implications for the social bombardment — too much information creates an invasion of personal space in some instances. We are available 24×7 and we have an inflow of information that is endless. The challenge becomes one of sorting through the immense knowledge base and discerning what information is accurate and what is inflated opinion or self-serving rhetoric. Over time, one has to develop strategies for optimizing social networking — getting the right information without creating yet another level of effort to filter knowledge from the limitless deluge of information bombarding our senses on a daily basis.

    Judy Carr, Ph.D.
    Founder & CEO
    Envision Consulting, LLC

  3. I am present only on LinkedIn because that's the place where I keep in touch with my professional contacts. To be honest, it's just a place where I keep my contacts bundled in one place. I don't really engage in any social activities such as group activities, chatting, etc …

    Until now I have consciously not created a profile in Facebook because I fear that this site would take up too much of my time (according to what my friends tell me, it's much more interactive than linkedin).

  4. Please tell me the web 3.0 thing is a joke?? I'll never get the hang of this social network thing, as soon as you think your understanding it all…. something new comes out.

    Thanks linda 😉

  5. I am also new to this Social Networking thing as based by the little amount of networking friends I have. But it seems as though Judy Carr, PhD., has a very strong and important evaluation on this subject……….I think I’ll look her up……….(RT).

  6. Hi Linda–Fascinating post, thanks. Those of us who live and breathe social networking and social media tend to forget how out of the norm we are, and it becomes easy to regard online interactions as “relationships” in the sense of “knowing” a person. But it’s not too hard to see what’s really wrong with that.

    I think you hit the nail on the head (and this was the real, maybe poorly expressed point of my post) when you said social media “augment[s] but [doesn’t] replace live interactions.” Bingo.

    My psychotherapist wife has had strong objections to a couple of my recent posts, mostly on the grounds that “trivial” interactions are trivial exactly because they lack value, and it’s wrong to suggest having a lot of them adds up to valuable relationships. So, as of today we’re compromising and talking about social media as promoting “banal” interactions, and we’re accepting that lots of those, including the ones communicated through social media, can form a foundation for meaning and value.


  7. Yes, Alan. The Web 3.0 was a joke. Punctuated with an old software developer’s joke … FINR stands for Fixed in Next Release!

  8. Hi Linda,
    don't know how I got here – but I am glad I did.

    Social Networking Sites – being a geek, used to think what's the use..

    Then someone suggested that I try out Twitter, and now I am hooked.

    All the best,

  9. From a social perspective social networks become part of our daily lives today which we cannot escape it anymore. It has become kind of a global village if you could put it in this perspective.

    I am now addicted to Twitter, cannot live without it anymore…

  10. Well, social networking sites definitely have their advantages, and of course disadvantages. It's harmful to stay in front of MySpace or Facebook for too long. The ultimate outcome may be Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

    I've done extensive research on IAD, and readers here may want to read here,

    15 years ago, my space means a corner in the house that I can sit down and read a book. Well, now it means a site. And I certainly believe that Facebook and Twitter can cause a lot of problems.

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