can you be over-networked?

i am a person who identifies (and has been identified by others) as a connector. so it’s from that stance that i wonder if it’s possible to be over-networked. 

i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately for two reasons.

first, i keep hearing about the limits of human connection. there’s some interesting, research (mostly coming from dunbar’s number research in the 1990s) about how the human brain can only meaningfully hold a certain number of people. after about 200 people, our brains begin to function worse when it comes to retaining information related to those people. so at a certain point, this means we actually can’t “know” more people. or at least, not well…

second, i notice in myself a diminishing desire to go to ‘networking’ style events. well, i actually never liked events with that explicitly language, but still… i find myself resisting events with large amounts of new people and focusing on ones with more (or all) people i already know.

given those things i’m starting to wonder if (in this digital age of social networks) being over-networked is a genuine possibility. i imagine at a certain point (maybe size of network), there must be a tradeoff between the time spent building a network versus time spent strengthening your existing network and/or utilizing it to get things done.

i think being over-networked might show up in a few different ways. the two that first come to mind are:

  1. people who are “bad” at names are often super connected. (note: i only have anecdotal evidence about this).
  2. people (myself included) forget important or key details about people what we genuinely care about. consequently, there is now a small market of apps built specifically to help us remember people we meet. (example 1, example 2, example 3) weird, eh?

anyway, i’m still not sure if being over-networked is a real thing. either way, i’m keeping my eyes open for other signs of this phenomenon in my life and in others. sure, i think some people really are meant to connectors; that’s the passion and value they bring into the world. however, i think more of us have networks that are untapped and just oozing with potential. i’m becoming increasingly interested in figuring out how to mobilize the potential for good.