Sometime last year I signed on to LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site. There are essentially two approaches that one can take with LinkedIn. Some choose to limit their “connections” to trusted contacts that they know and would feel comfortable recommending to others. Others take a more aggressive approach, and seek to add any willing warm body with an email address to their network.
(Recovering) lawyer that I am, I could argue for either approach, but I chose the former route. As a result, all of my LinkedIn connections are people with whom I share some sort of relationship – largely professional, but some social as well. Admittedly, a few of these connections are rather tenuous – I cannot vouch fully for the work ethic and ability of all of my LinkedIn connections (although I can say with some degree of certainty that none are ax murderers). But, as one of the primary goals of most people participating in LinkedIn is to expand their network, and therefore increase their potential to be able to find an employee/expert/consultant/career opportunity, I think that’s OK. I have 150-some connections and an extended network of close to 500,000, and I’ve realized some business benefit from it, so mission accomplished.
Not so with Facebook, which I joined just a few days ago. I see Facebook as a purely social utility. If I don’t know someone well enough to think that they might have some interest in what I am up to at a given point in time (and I in what they are doing), I don’t see any point in connecting as a “friend” on Facebook.
Which has led to some interesting decisions. Who should I invite? I have little reservation about sending someone a LinkedIn connection invite, as I view it as a business decision. If I have some sort of relationship with a person, and believe that networking with them might potentially have some business value (either through them or through one of their connections), I’ll send them an invitation.
It’s not as easy with Facebook. I don’t know; it may be something as simple as the semantic difference between “connection” and “friend”. A business “connection” is just that, business. You don’t want to connect, fine, your loss. A social “friend”, however, is, well, a friend. I’ve told my oldest daughter to remember that when the day comes that a boy calls her on the phone and asks her for a date, she should keep in mind the fact that his finger may have hovered over the number pad for quite a while before he finally got up the gumption to make the call. Asking someone to be your “friend”, even in the context of something as contrived as Facebook, carries a measure of risk. After all, they could say “no”!
While I’ve only been on Facebook for a few days, and really haven’t put too much time into it, I’ve already faced Facebook rejection. I sent out an invitation, to a female acquaintance who is already on Facebook, and … nothing. I know that she received the invitation, because I got an unrelated email from her the day after I sent it. So, why didn’t she accept? Was my invitation inappropriate? Did it make her uncomfortable? Does she think I’m a jerk? If it’s the latter reason, that’s OK – she should probably just take a number and get in line. I do hope, however, that it wasn’t because I made her feel uncomfortable.
Oh well. Such is the lot of a 40-something trying to adapt to the technology and social mores of a 20-something.
By the way, if you are reading this, know me, and think we should be connected on either LinkedIn or Facebook, shoot me an invite. I promise I won’t make you wonder why I didn’t respond….