The ‘Path’ to social networking happiness is fewer friends

15 Nov 2010

Did you ever think sometimes you have too many followers on Twitter and wonder how many of our “friends” on Facebook are genuine friends? Well, new social network Path aims to reduce clutter and keep your circle of friends a tight 50.

San Francisco-based Path is headed up by Napster’s Shawn Fanning and David Morin, an ex-Facebook executive.

The company has attracted the financial backing of celebrity Ashton Kutcher and angel investor Ron Conway.

The company is also understood to have recruited the engineer who built the photo application for the iPhone.

The principle of Path is that despite the thousands of followers you have amassed on Twitter or the hundreds of friends and acquaintances you have gathered on Facebook or LinkedIn, in reality our true circles of friends are smaller than 150, and to be really effective, less than 50.

The impact of social networking has been to make people overwhelmingly open and honest and share information they hitherto would have kept private. It has turned individuals in to crowd followers and crowd pleasers and for others revealed a narcissist dimension. But ultimately, its saving grace is it has brought people together into one large conversation.

Going from public to private

However, there is evidence that people are beginning to edge back, they are keeping their updates more private and in recent weeks Facebook even introduced a Groups application.

But what Paths does is use the medium of photography to share only the most intimate experiences with an exclusive network, comprising your closest friends and family.

“We chose 50 based on the research of Oxford professor of evolutionary psychology Robin Dunbar, who has long suggested that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships that the human brain can sustain at any given time,” Path’s founders said in an introductory blog.

“Dunbar’s research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly three. So while we may have five 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.

“Practically all of us carry a camera phone, and our photos tell the stories of our lives. Starting today, we hope that Path is the place you will always feel comfortable being yourself and sharing the story of your life with your closest friends and family via the photos you take every day with your mobile device.”

Path is launching first on the App Store on iPhone but if you do not have an iPhone, you can still register and check out Path through your browser.

Be yourself

The company’s founders describe Path as the personal network, a place to be yourself and share life with close friends and family. The personal network doesn’t replace your existing social networks – it augments them.

“Path allows you to capture your life’s most personal moments and share them with the 50 close friends and family in your life who matter most.  

“Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself,” the company said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years