I’ve talked about Dunbar’s number before and how our modern society removes the relationship constraints that guided our ancestors to fit the model.
One analogy for the different intimacy levels in relationships is the backer levels for a Kickstarter campaign.
At the base level, you get some trivial recognition, like your name on a website or a thank you email. This is like your acquaintance group—friends of friends, work colleagues, old school friends…—where you recognize them and will say "hi" to them if you run into them. (~500 or more people in this group)
The next level is a sticker, electronic content, or some other minor item. This is like your personal network, the level of friend you would stop and spend 10 minutes catching up with if you run into them in the street. (~150 people in this group)
Next is where you get a copy of the item being developed. This is like your active network, the people you tend to make plans with on a recurring basis. (~50 people in this group)
Next up is the item plus some special add-ons like limited edition swag and access to behind-the-scenes info. This corresponds to your sympathy group, close friends, and family who are the core of your “tribe” and are always there for you to recognize important milestones: birthdays, holidays, life transition events… (~15 people in this group)
The final group is the highest backer level: this includes all of the stuff from all of the previous levels, plus some personalized recognition in the form of featured credits, a personal call or meeting with the creator, and maybe even original assets signed by the creator. This maps to the most intimate relationship level—your support clique. These are the people who are your “4am friends”—people who support you unconditionally any time you are in need. (~5 people in this group)