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]?
- We’ve done business together
- 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.)