Why I don’t respond to LinkedIn requests

Some years back, I signed up for LinkedIn, because I was pleased to finally see a Social Networking Site (SNS) that had a purpose other than dating.

(This was before I was on Facebook, and the SNSes I'd been on didn't involve much actual social interaction.)

I set up a profile, and I connected to various colleagues and former colleagues. I think I passed along a job possibility to someone once. But then I started getting connection requests that I didn't know what to do with.

When you try to send a connection request to a particular person on LinkedIn, it asks you:

How do you know [name]?

  • Colleague
  • Classmate
  • We’ve done business together
  • Friend
  • Other
  • I don’t know [name]

And then underneath that, it says:

Only invite people you know well and who know you.

And then it says “Find out why,” with a link to a page that says:

Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well:

  • They’ll have access to people you know
  • Others may ask you about them and vice versa
  • You’ll get updates on their activity
  • LinkedIn lets you invite colleagues, classmates, friends and business partners without entering their email addresses.

All of that is less strict than I thought it was; among other things, I don't remember “Friend” being on the list of options last time I looked (which may've been five years ago). But even so, my understanding is that the point of LinkedIn is meant to be networking for business purposes, and that if I'm connected to someone, it implies not just that I know them but that I vouch for them in a business context.

And most of the people who send me LinkedIn connection requests are people I've never interacted with in any professional capacity.

For a while, I was accepting connection requests from authors I'd edited; that's not really a connection of the sort I think the site is intended for, but I suppose it generally gives me at least a little bit of a sense of what the other person is like to work with.

But then I started getting connection requests from (for example) recruiters whom I'd never met, at companies I used to work for. Or the ex-CEO of a huge company I worked for briefly. (I never met him and I doubt he had any idea who I was.) And a couple of people have listed me as things like “Colleague at SFWA” or “Colleague at Self-Employed”—both of which seem a little odd to me, but I'm not seeing a way to say “I acknowledge a connection to this person but I wouldn't characterize the connection the way they did.” (And maybe there just isn't a good way within the system to say “I worked with this person in a context that didn't involve formal employment.”)

And a bunch of requests were from friends who I have no work connection with; I was particularly reluctant to answer those, because I didn't think the site was set up to acknowledge them, so I thought I'd be implying a work connection that wasn't accurate. Now that I know that Friend is one type of connection the system recognizes, I'm less bothered by that; I'm sorry I didn't find that out sooner. I wonder whether it's been true all along and I just missed it, or whether they changed at some point.

At any rate, the result of all this was that a couple years ago, I stopped feeling like LinkedIn was useful as a professional networking service, and I started getting tense every time I got yet another LinkedIn connection request that I didn't know how or whether to respond to.

For a while, I sent email responses to the requesters, saying things like “Sorry, but my use of LinkedIn is on hiatus while I try to figure out how I want to use it.” But then the weight of unanswered requests got to the point where I just stopped responding at all.

I'm sorry about that. I particularly apologize to anyone who's felt hurt or upset by my non-responses. Not at all intentional; it's not any one person, it's the whole system.

Which probably means I'm overthinking all this. I should probably give up and switch to a system like what I do for Facebook, where I accept every friend request I receive.

But since I don't actually visit LinkedIn, use their services, or read any of the emails they send me, probably the more honest approach would be for me to shut down my account there.

Anyway. I'm still hesitant to take any action at all related to LinkedIn. But maybe I'll start by at least confirming the Friend requests there, the ones from people I do actually know reasonably well.

But for those of you who I know a little but not very well, I'm sorry, but I'm still going to hold off on confirming those requests, at least for now. Even if we've interacted socially and I like you.

(Side note: as I wrote this entry, I finally looked at some of the LinkedIn requests I've been ignoring—and one of them was from a college friend who I haven't seen in a very long time and who I'd been looking for for ages. So I guess the site does have some value to me, even if not the value the people who run it intended.)

6 Responses to “Why I don’t respond to LinkedIn requests”

  1. irilyth

    I had the same feeling about LinkedIn for a while, but eventually stopped worrying about it. Fneh.

  2. Sam

    “I particularly apologize to anyone who’s felt hurt or upset by my non-responses.”


    Dear Jed and Karen,
    cc Abbey

    Congratulations! I nearly made it through this installment without the need to offer my pithy remarks. But then, just at the last was this little ditty:
    I fight it, wrench my eyes into focus. Above us the sky is dazzling blue, and empty.

    I fight it. And. Wrench my eyes into focus. Are, of course, complete sentences, and complete thoughts with both subject and verb. You are guilty in the court of proper grammar of the dreaded—comma splice. In fact, if you would like me to go even longer (and I’m sure you would.) The final sentence: Above us the sky is dazzling blue, and empty. Really should be attached, with a colon, to the previous sentence, thusly: Wrench my eyes into focus; above us the sky is dazzling blue, and empty.
    Or you could do something like this: I fight it; wrench my eyes into focus.
    # Paragraph
    Above us the sky is dazzling blue, empty. Or
    Above us the sky is dazzling blue and empty.
    I like the former; what we writers refer to sometimes as, “voice.”
    You remember “voice” don’t you Karen and Jeb. Only in this instance, the voice is punctuated correctly.
    But don’t change a thing. I know any piece of fiction that would get through the editorial juggernaut at Strange Horizons, by definition, must be error free! Mistakes are verboten! Along with the suspension of any 1st amendment rights.

    Well I’ve got to get busy. The German Sheppard must be fed. Oops! That’s German Shepherd—not Sheppard. You would think that when a guy has spellchecker and Windows editing adaptabilities that he would never make a mistake now wouldn’t you?

    More later. I want to tell you about a food article I just did on Tony’s Restaurant. On the menu they had printed “Sweat Bread” They meant, of course, Sweet Bread. When I corrected the waiter, he offered to give me an order of Sweat Bread for free. He brought over a piece of white bread and wiped his underarm with it. Have you guys ever eaten there? Some folks just can’t admit making a mistake. Damned word processors anyhow. The ginger-butter was pretty good though.


    P.S. I didn’t get a chance to read the story—I’m sorry Abbey—but I just glanced at it. The story was just too violent, and I read Fight Club—twice! I’ll be sure to read your next one though, especially if it has been gleaned thought the editorial department at Strange Horizons! They’re up for an Emmy or its equivalent in editing SF literature. Hope they win.

  3. Victoria Ipri

    Jed, I beg to differ.

    Yes, we should connect with those we ‘know’- former or current classmates, former or current coworkers, friends, neighbors, family.

    But tell me…once you’ve connected with them all, what’s left?

    Can your immediate sphere of connections promote your products and services, encourage others to connect with you, help you establish yourself as a thought leader or industry expert, uncover appropriate joint ventures, refer great business opportunities…

    It’s unlikely. So then, what does LinkedIn become, if not merely a big Rolodex?

    I agree with you that quality trumps quantity. When someone brags to me that he has 20,000 direct connections, I retort, “That’s great. With how many of those connections have you personally engaged?”

    The very foundation of social media marketing, professional networking, engagement et al is the ever-growing sphere of influence, based on multiple degrees of connection.

    So, in my humble opinion, your view is shortsighted.

    Then again, it’s just my opinion 🙂

  4. Jed

    Josh: Yeah, it’s entirely possible that the real answer is that I’m overthinking it and should just relax about it. And mostly I do.

  5. Jed

    Victoria: Do you think that LinkedIn should be used for advertising your products and services? I don’t think that’s what it’s for at all, and if anyone were sending me ads via LinkedIn, I would disconnect from them in a minute.

    My understanding is that the entire point of LinkedIn is meant to be to connect jobs with good candidates. I may be wrong about that, but that was my impression. So if that’s the goal, then telling the site you have a connection with someone you don’t know well (or, possibly, at all) seems counterproductive. It’s not like you can honestly recommend the person for a job.

    And you seem to acknowledge that with your line about quality vs quantity. So I’m not sure what exactly you’re saying is shortsighted about my approach, other than the fact that I don’t want to see people advertising on LinkedIn.

    And speaking of ads, your comment is pretty spammy. I don’t know you, and Googling your name reveals that you appear to be some kind of consultant, with a “social media marketing focus” on LinkedIn.

    On one of your pages, you wrote:

    “You wouldn’t walk into your neighbor’s BBQ, announce your arrival, then sit in your neighbor’s favorite chair and start dominating the conversation, would you?”

    And yet, that’s just what you’ve done with your comment here. Not only starting by dominating the conversation, but by insulting your host, which is generally considered bad form in my circles.

    I think it’s also worth noting that your URL goes to a GoDaddy dummy landing page instead of a website, which seems like a major no-no for someone whose job involves online networking.

    Still, just in case you’re trying to pick up free PageRank for a future site, I’m going to redact your URL.

    On the plus side, you do appear to be a human who’s read my entry and is responding to it; that’s a step up from spambots, which is why I’m not deleting your comment. But I figured it was worth explicitly mentioning here, for the benefit of anyone who might be reading this, that you’re a random stranger who apparently came here to promote your business.

  6. Tcornes

    As you know, I don’t work in a traditional sense of the word and I’m on LinkedIn and do accept friend requests. LinkedIn is the only social network I belong to where I have real life connections to almost all the people in my network. On Facebook, I play games, so some of my “Facebook friends” are people I don’t know but just play games with. On LiveJournal, some of my friends are people who just want to read my locked entries, again people I don’t know. That said, I wouldn’t be hurt if a RL friend ignored a LinkedIn connection to me as I don’t post anything there. I also wouldn’t assume that just because you’re connected to someone on LinkedIn that you are “vouching” for that person. LinkedIn has a way to personally recommend aka vouch for particular connections.

    I actually got my first job in the bay area through you, because your friend Mykle was moving out of state and needed a replacement for his job. You told me about the job. You didn’t know me that well back then, so I assume you just said she’s a friend of a friend. Later I heard about another job, because I used to game with that person. In the same way, I think nonprofessional connections on LinkedIn could be useful professionally. So far LinkedIn’s been of little practical use to me, but perhaps one of my connections finds it useful. I try to pay it forward.


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