Social networking sites such as MySpace have been perverted from their original purpose of connecting people – some of that still happens of course, but now it’s more of popularity contest where strangers add each other as “friends” in some bizarre game of one-upmanship. Everyone wants to have 100’s or 1000’s of “friends” even though they don’t actually know them. MySpace is a social tool, and I know people use it to meet other people, but I think the basic concept of what a “friends” list was supposed to mean has been stretched. But hey, it’s all for fun, so who cares. If people want to brag they have 500 “friends” on their list that they don’t actually know, so be it.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is aimed at the professional business market – your network is supposed to be people that you actually know, people that you do business with in some fashion or know on a professional or personal basis. I don’t used LinkedIn all that much, but I’ve registered and have a group of people on my list that I actually know. I’ve seen something happening lately that I can only call the “MySpace Friends Phenominon” where people who simply know of me are asking to be added to my professional business network. Random people who read my Web sites think that’s an appropriate relationship for me to vouch for them by adding them to my LinkedIn network.
Who are these people? Why do they think they because they know my name I’d want to add them to my network? It’s not a matter of arrogance on my part – it’s a matter of professional ethics. If I’m going to have someone in my network of known professional associates, it’s going to be because I know who they are and what they do. I’m a big believer in personal integrity, and if I don’t know the person at least on some basic level (I’ve exchanged a few email messages with them for instance) I’m not going to say that I “know” them.