Do we put a limit on our close social networks?

New UK study into the behaviour of individuals across various social practices shows we each have our own social signature

For leaders in the marketing industry, there’s no such thing as having too many friends in your social network. But a new study has shown that people inadvertently limit the number of close social contacts.

The persistence of social signatures in human communication study by researchers from a range of universities including the University of Oxford, University of Chester, UK and Aalto University, Finland found people often take a ‘one in, one out’ approach when forming a group of friends they consider to be in close contact with. Each individual's 'social signature' - the pattern of their interactions with different friends and family - varies but remains persistent despite the number of new friends they make.

“Although social communication is now easier than ever, it seems that our capacity for maintaining emotionally close relationships is finite,” said Felix Reed-Tsochas, James Martin Lecturer in Complex Systems at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. “While this number varies from person to person, what holds true in all cases is that at any point individuals are able to keep up close relationships with only a small number of people, so that new friendships come at the expense of ‘relegating’ existing friends.”

The study looked at patterns of communications between participants and their close friends/not so close friends. It found even the efficiencies of digital communication such as mobile phones didn’t alter an individual's ability to expand their close social network.

“This study used a novel combination of questionnaires and mobile phone data to show that people have a distinctive pattern of communicating with their family and friends, and that this pattern persists even people make new friends as they go to university or work,” said Dr Roberts, from the University of Chester’s Psychology Department.

“Our results are likely to reflect limitations in the ability of humans to maintain many emotionally close relationships, both because of limited time and because the emotional capital individuals can allocate between family members and friends is finite.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

Signup to CMO’s new email newsletter to receive your weekly dose of targeted content for the modern marketing chief.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

What does the CMO of 2017 look like?

The marketing landscape continues to evolve, and leading marketers are working hard to ride the wave. So what does it take to stand out from the pack?

Andrew Haussegger

Co-founder and CEO, Green Hat

The real asset of small data – getting granular unearths opportunities

When most marketers use the word ‘data’, what springs to mind are large sets of numbers, Excel spreadsheets, cloud-based IT systems and complicated algorithms. Big data speak is the mot du jour. There is even a big data Week in London called the Festival of Data.

Pip Stocks

CEO and founder, BrandHook

Digital Transformation challenges for CMOs

New problems are rarely fixed by applying old thinking. In the last decade, a combination of circumstances has evolved that requires new thinking from marketers. This new thinking takes advantage of the digital environment and transforms business as we know it.

Mark Cameron

CEO, Working Three

Blessing of new technology we are enjoying the latest products. We could not imagine that we will get in the future these kind of product...

Ernest S. Bull

10 examples of cutting-edge marketing tech - Slideshow - CMO Australia

Read more

it is natural that agriculture needs innovatons. I'd say that it's a must. by the 2050 there will be 1/3 more people on the planet and no...

mariobros77

How a new digital and data strategy for agriculture is helping farmers innovate

Read more

Need to improve your customer journey? We're excited to announce that we are holding that we are holding two more sessions of our sellout...

Proto Partners

Customer journeys: The new differentiation battlefield - Customer insights - CMO Australia

Read more

Thanks Mark. A third of customers leave brands after one negative experience, thats why it is ever so important that we optimise EVERY in...

Proto Partners

Customer journeys: The new differentiation battlefield - Customer insights - CMO Australia

Read more

Hi Kyle -- great piece. I couldn't agree with you more when you say that we as marketers are in the business of choice. I actually wrot...

Matthew Willcox

Tapping behavioural science for consumer influence

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in