Friend Limit Frustration Exposes Tech World’s Weakness in Social Science

Debate about friend limits has once again erupted, this time started by Louis Gray on FriendFeed. 

This is yet another great example of the problems that have been caused because social networks are created by tech guys who know little to nothing about social science.

Out of all the different social networks that have been launched, not a single one is architected to the way human beings naturally function. 

Here’s a tip guys: divide online space the way we all divide our offline space, into Intimate, Private, Social and Public. 

This hell-bent desire to dump sales and promotional activity into SOCIAL space is exactly why none of the current social networks will make it to the IPO finish line.  Advertising and PR should be a part of PUBLIC space.  Obviously, Facebook et al don’t know the difference.

Of course, I’ve been saying this for over two years to Robert Scoble and other thought leaders in the tech world, even to the creators of Twitter and FriendFeed directly, but nobody has yet aligned social networks to the realites of social science.  Design anthropology isn’t something Silicon Valley has shown any willingness to even listen to, much less submit to, much less invest in.   So I won’t hold my breath that these frustrated arguments caused by anti-human-nature design will cease any time soon.


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8 Responses to “Friend Limit Frustration Exposes Tech World’s Weakness in Social Science”

  1. ilteraktif Says:

    Well said Dawn, well said.
    I really don’t understand why the number 5000 is a ‘limitation’ of Facebook.
    I definately don’t have the 1/10 of that number of friends in real life, that I’d like to be ‘followed’ by.

  2. Dawn Douglass Says:

    Thanks, ilteraktif! Boy, I don’t think I could say that name five times fast. 🙂

  3. Phoebe Says:

    Do you think that social media should simply reflect our pre-existing social behaviors though? At least to some extent, I’d say social networks have and will continue to change our habits.

  4. Dawn Douglass Says:

    That’s a good point, Phoebe. But while expressions of “social” may change with technology, the underlying humanity is remarkably constant. Anthropology, sociology and psychology can all offer deep insight into how social networks can be designed in order to maximize users’ comfort and benefits.

  5. Phoebe Says:

    I definitely agree with you that psychology and social sciences can shed light on human behaviors – bringing social networks “back” to what’s comfortable but also “forward” to more sophisticated interactions that aren’t based on amassing friends/followers, dumping promotions anywhere (as you say) etc.

    From a different perspective, we wrote about this on our blog – that digital technologies are going analog.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion!

  6. Fabio Says:

    I’m a web designer planning a format for a new social network and I have been doing some research on most social networks strengths and weaknesses winch made come across with this discussion.

    Dawn made me aware of something I haven’t had in mind and unleashed a desire of putting this concept into work.

    Dawn, if you are reading this, please contact me on ( if you would like to add something to what has been said here or if you would like to share information with me in order for me to do something closer to social reality.

    Thank you
    Fabio Goncalves

  7. Teronze H. Says:


    I am designing a hot new Social Network, and believe me…I am listening very attentively to the very valid perspective you have provided.

    Thank you,

    I will do just that.

  8. Dawn Douglass Says:

    Thanks, Teronze. I’m actually working on something myself. It’s been rumbling around in my head for some time. I’m hoping to find time to put together a video presentation soon, so that I can attract interest in developing it. It’s going to be a big project. Good luck with what you’re doing.

    Merry Christmas!!

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