Making Friends: It's Your Fault

World Population Map around 750 AD.

World Population Map around 750 AD.

I grew up in a small logging town in Western Washington. It was a place called Toledo and bragged a few churches and few more taverns. According to the US Census, 586 called Toledo home when I was a child. I have many fond memories of this place including an awareness of how connected people were in our little town. My dad was a local pastor and we enjoyed many connections between families, schools, fire departments, and other community based groups. Some of my best friends lived in Toledo and I will never forget Josh, Kevin, or Chad.

We moved from Toledo to Seatac when I was in elementary school. My neighborhood increased by more than 23,000 people. This population increase didn't account for the 3 Million people who lived just miles away in the greater Seattle area. I experienced a great population jump and sensed that it would be impossible to connect with new friends when I was surrounded by so manny. 

How do you convert thousands of acquaintances into a few new friends?
Population Map 2

The team at has produced an amazing map which illustrates global population growth over the past 1,000 years. The map highlights a series of important events and technological developments throughout history to provide a greater context for growth as well. It is fascinating to click through and see which areas of the world host the most people.

It is easy to look at a map like this and feel disconnected for the immense population of the world. I felt the same way when I first moved from Toledo to Seattle. The truth is, however, we have a limited ability to connect with those around us. 

We have a limited ability to connect with the people around us.

A popular social scientist published a study in 1992 which argued that humans can maintain an average of 150 social connections in their life. This number, which ranged between 100 and 250 would become known as Dunbar's number and provides one description of our ability to connect with others around us. 

Think about it: can you name 150 people with whom you have a personal relationship? Our social networks would have us believe that we are connected to thousands. But how often do you see a friend listed and ask yourself, who is that?

We can't connect with everyone but we can connect with someone and this makes all the difference. Personal relationships are the most influential forces in our lives. Accepting anonymity in a sea of "friends" or in the ocean of strangers is no way to live; it is no way to grow. We have to work hard to establish and maintain relationships with others. Making a meaningful connection with one is far more important than trying to connect with thousands. It is your job to make real friends.

Making a meaningful connection with one is far more important than trying to connect with thousands. 

Do you live in a city with hundreds or millions? Is your social network large or small? Do you realize that none of that makes a difference? You are responsible to foster meaningful relationships in your life. Don't let external forces discourage your ability to build internal friendships. Become responsible for your own social life and make a personal connection today. 

CultureBrent ColbyComment