How Many Swimmers Do You Know?

How Many Swimmers Do You Know?

Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist at the University of Oxford, is famous for Dunbar’s number. He believes that people can maintain 150 relationships with other humans, a measurement of the cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.

When people add more than 150 friends on Facebook, they simply dip into these normal higher layers. Facebook has muddied the waters by calling them all friends, but really they are not,” explained Dunbar whose research has shaped social network design. But he also believes that people can have another 500 acquaintances and can recognize 1,500 faces.

Widening your social circle…happens very rarely and it probably still requires you to really create and cement the relationship,” further explains the Professor of Evolutionary Psychology.

But we wonder if there is anything special happening in the open water swimming world? It appears that the extraordinary experiences of swimming in oceans and lakes is immediately, profoundly and deeply understood by open water swimmers across age groups, genders, borders and cultures.

So when 70-year-old Roger Allsopp swims across the English Channel or 14-year-old Annaleise Carr swims across Lake Ontario, many open water swimmers immediately, profoundly and deeply understand the physical demands, the emotional toll and the psychological stress faced by these athletes. Without words shared or communications established, there is a feeling of “oneness” with these individuals. That sense of community and that sense of a shared experience is based on the assumed coldness of the water, the worry or wonder of swimming at night, and the muscle aches and pains. Although we were not with swimmers like Dr. Allsopp or Miss Carr, we can imagine ourselves swimming at night in the cold with them, straining with each stroke. Even more so than a “like” on Facebook, we can “live” the experience we read online, in newspapers or see on television.

Similarly, when we read about the mass participation swims like the Midmar Mile, the Great Swim, the New Zealand Ocean Series or Big Shoulders, open water swimmers can imagine the crush of bodies at the start and around the buoys. Even if we are not there, we can easily imagine the sights, sounds and stress of the total experience. Even more profoundly than a “like”, we can and do live the experience through publications, blogs and online social networks.

A great 21st century way to at least feel internally that a relationship has been cemented with other open water swimmers around the world.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones