Like the seasonal flu, we all get a touch of social media fatigue from time to time. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare or something else, there are days when there's too much information (TMI) out there--from too many people who are actually pretty peripheral to our lives. We worry about privacy, too, and whether we're giving away too much of our selves. A sign of the times, a new iPhone app called Path was launched today.
Called "The Personal Network" (as opposed to a social network), Path sets a limit on the number of people with whom you share your pictures and whereabouts. It works like this: You snap a picture on your IPhone and add tags identifying three categories of information---people, places and things. Each user is limited to a total of 50 friends and relatives on their network; you can share the information with everyone or a limited subset.
The logic for the app is attributed to anthropologist Robin Dunbar's research that suggests that human beings are hard-wired so that we are only capable of juggling 150 social relationships at once.
The website for Path notes:
Dunbar's research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly 3. So while we may have 5 people whom we consider to be our closest friends, and 20 whom we maintain regular contact with, 50 is roughly the outer boundary of our personal networks. These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives.
I'm not sure how hard and fast the research is but Path certainly taps into the desire many busy people feel to simplify their lives, even their social media ones. An article in today's New York Times by Claire Miller notes, "Path is counting on people wanting a more controlled network of trusted friends."
The app is available in the ITunes store today. Are you experiencing social media fatigue? Do you feel the need to be less social?
Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her recent book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at