We’re incredibly excited about Path, a new iPhone app that limits your social network to just 50 people. Not because it will beat Facebook or Twitter (good luck with that), but rather it’s the first social media platform we’ve seen in a while that recognizes we all want boundaries on how we share.
The issue, you see, is anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested humans could maintain about 150 relationships comfortably, yet social nets have been pushing those numbers higher. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that once you begin to scale your connections, and, say, your Mom and Aunt Millie and that guy you met at a conference a year ago join Facebook, the utility begins to diminish. Some critics, such as Malcolm Gladwell, have suggested our new collections of “weak ties” really aren’t effective relationships at all. As the Chris Brogans and Robert Scobles of the world scale to hundreds of thousands of online followers, we’ve wondered, what is the upper limit? What happens when we’re so overconnected that sharing and listening become as cacophonous as a mall on Christmas Eve?
God-like powers, with God tuning out?
We joked at lunch with Darryl Ohrt yesterday that perhaps this is why God no longer appears to answer prayers — the burgeoning human population has cluttered his stream. Path is part of a new trend, including TweetDeck columns and Facebook Groups, of tools that help limit your sharing. Relationships require opening up, and raw, honest transparency is perhaps something you don’t want to give to the entire world. These network limits may not be good for marketers who hope to influence the masses through free limitless earned-media connections, and they could also put brakes on how Path grows itself.
Which is why we love Path’s idea. A network with restraint. That’s so brave. We’re downloading the app now.