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New Media, Communication, and Society

A Fast, Straightforward Examination of Key Topics

Mary Ann Allison and Cheryl A. Casey

New Media, Communication, and Society is a fast, straightforward examination of key topics which will be useful and engaging for both students and professors. It connects students to wide-ranging resources and challenges them to develop their own opinions. Moreover, it encourages students to develop media literacy so they can speak up and  make a difference in the world. Short chapters with lots of illustrations encourage reading and provide a springboard for conversation inside and outside of the classroom. Wide-ranging topics spark interest. Chapters include suggestions for additional exploration, a media literacy exercise, and a point that is just for fun. Every chapter includes thought leaders, ranging from leading researchers to business leaders to entrepreneurs, from Socrates to Doug Rushkoff and Lance Strate to Bill Gates.

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22 You Have a Choice (Mary Ann Allison)

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CHAPTER 22

You Have a Choice

Mary Ann Allison

But you can’t choose to have 245 close friends. Why not?

In 2012, Facebook users of all ages had an average of 245 friends. And, two years later, despite some rumors that Facebook use was declining, 27% of 18- to 29-year-old Facebook users had more than 500 friends in their network. Whether using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the more business-oriented LinkedIn, or other, newer social media, many of us have digital friends in the hundreds or even thousands.

But we don’t have hundreds of close friends. We can’t. Why not?

We simply don’t have enough brainpower.

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar can tell us. Dunbar has studied social lives and brain sizes in primates—apes, monkeys, and humans. He found a fascinating relationship between the size of the brains in primates and the size of the social groups that primates naturally form: the larger the average neocortex, the bigger the group that primates naturally form. As you can see in Figure 22.1 on the next page, human beings can have about 150 “close” friends (people whom you know well enough to make a good guess about how they would think about a problem).

For most of the 250,000 years that humans have been around, we lived in groups of up to about 150 people as hunter-gatherers or in small farming communities. Now more than...

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