Facebook allows individuals to have 5,000 friends on their personal pages.

I know a few people who are very close to that limit.

The people I know who have nearly 5,000 Facebook friends each have a platform — a book or business that gives them visibility.

They like  to network; they know a lot of people in real life AND they’re willing to accept friend requests from fans who want to know them better.

I get it.

I appreciate it.

In fact, I benefit from it.

I’m friends on Facebook with a few famous people who I don’t know at all, beyond admiring their work: Charlene Li, China Gorman, and Pam Slim. (Yes, I’m name-dropping.)

I’m also friends with Ann Voskamp, the author of one of my favorite blogs ever. She accepted my friend request long before her new book hit the New York Times Best Seller List.

She is my hero. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. And we’re friends on Facebook.

Facebook allows people to count their friends — up to 5,000. I am nowhere near the limit.

I think: it is impossible to really know and interact with 5,000 friends.

I wonder: what is the true limit to the number of relationships I can cultivate?

Is there a limit to the influence I can have? the love I can share? the encouragement I can give?

How can I continue to form new relationships while nurturing the ones I already have?

The closer the relationship, the greater the potential impact. The better I know you, the more likely I am to hear your voice in my head: to allow who you are and what you value to influence me.

A Facebook friend responded to a comment I left on her post with these words: “I actually ask myself, “How would Becky have done this?” It’s amazing that some people have such a powerful influence and they don’t even realize it.”

Although it may not appear so, I do realize the impact I can and do have on people’s lives. Do you?

If you allow people to have close access to your life, you will influence them.

If I want to influence others, I need to invite them to be closer. The people I am most likely to influence are the ones who spend time in my home, the ones who are comfortable enough to open my refrigerator door without asking first. They’re the ones who sit close enough to me to see my laugh lines and smell my perfume. Or they’re the ones who have my phone number stored in their contacts.

We can invite people to be closer despite geographical distance by intentionally sharing who we are, giving them a glimpse of our lives.

It only takes a few minutes to make a difference. Yesterday, Dan Rockwell called me on the phone briefly, just to check in. He asked questions; listened; shared encouragement.

Through that interaction, Dan said: I value you; I care about you; you matter. Through that interaction, Dan came closer to me, strengthening our relationship and increasing his ability to influence me.

That short phone call is proof that a few minutes can make a big difference. I can spend a few minutes to send an email, write on someone’s Facebook wall, send a tweet, or make a phone call. Those few minutes may change the tenor of someone’s day, reverberating long after the interaction is finished. 

Tell me something! What is your limit? How do you juggle an ever-growing number of real life and online relationships? How will you make a difference in someone’s life… today?