National Unfriend Day | Jimmy Kimmel encourages cutting the fat

Social network

According to social anthropologists, a social network should only contain 150 friends. Image: Wikimedia Commons

About two weeks ago, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel declared Nov. 17 would be National Unfriend Day. National Unfriend Day is supposed to be a day to cut down your Facebook friend list. Though intended only as a gimmick, the reasoning behind National Unfriend Day has a solid basis in sociological research.

Jimmy Kimmel announces National Unfriend Day

On his late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel had a long discussion about what a “friend” actually is. The idea is that anyone who we went to high school or middle school with may or may not actually be a friend. In other words, the word “friend” is being cheapened, and he wants to bring some of the power back to the word. The goal of National Unfriend Day is simple — cut down your Facebook Friends list to the people you actually want to have a relationship with.

The sociological basis of National Unfriend Day

Though it seems funny, National Unfriend Day does have some scientific basis. Researcher Robin Dunbar published a book called “How Many Friends Does One Person Need” that argues that the upper limit of relationships any one person can maintain is 150. This conclusion was reached by studying the social networks of primates and human history. The human brain can only keep track of so many moving parts, and the theory is more than that cannot be maintained.

The problem with National Unfriend Day

National Unfriend Day, much like Facebook, presents a few sticky social situations. The new social network and photo sharing site Path is intended to keep friends limited to 50. In trying to build networks and relationships, though, many people end up “friending” more people than they actually personally know. Because the demands of work and social life often mean including someone at least partially in your online life, limiting friends to 50, or even 150, can be difficult. So what do you think? Will you be “celebrating” National Unfriend Day, or ignoring it?

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