How many friends can you have? How many friends should you have?1093768_crowded_street

Users of Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social networks often find themselves engaged in debate over a question that reminds me of my middle school days:

  • How many friends can you really know?
  • Should you connect with everyone who asks or should you only connect with those you know well?
  • What is the ideal number of connections?

From the perspective of the engineers who write the code for LinkedIn and Facebook, there is such a thing as too many friends. Too much traffic limits your bandwidth (capacity). Facebook limits you to 5,000 friends; LinkedIn recently capped limits for open networkers at 30,000.

Deciding how many friends or contacts you should have is a personal decision. I take LinkedIn's suggested guidelines to heart: I only connect with those people I know, and who I trust.

I know that statistics routinely show that networking is one of the most effective ways to find a position--and if you limit the number of connections you have, it theoretically limits the number of opportunities you have. But I don't think so. My philosophy of networking was inspired by the late Walter Annenberg, former U.S. Ambassador and TV Guide founder, who said, "It's not who you know, it's who knows you back."

How many of your friends and connections would "know you back" if presented with an opportunity that suits you perfectly? Are they aware of what you are looking for?

How do you define online friendship? And how many is enough? I look forward to hearing your take on this.