The true value of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is marketed as a social network for professionals. It is also one of the ways people use to look up old friends, perhaps from University, school, or previous jobs.
Most people think of the value of LinkedIn, to be in the networks it allows you to form. However, I personally don’t think this is its most valuable attribute. That value lies in something more subtle than a network. LinkedIn’s true value is not in who joins your network, but in who doesn’t.
I have recently become active on LinkedIn, although I have supposedly been a member for a couple of years. I say “supposedly” because in all that time I never logged in and never did anything on LinkedIn, at all. Now, my recent activity has involved a lot of checking for the presence of old friends on the database and sending them an invitation. The responses have been instructive. There have been two types of response: the quick acceptance, either without notice, or with an accompanying note – and the complete failure to respond. In my case, of 19 invitations sent, 14 have resulted in acceptance and 5 have responded only with silence. I find these ones the most interesting. Of these two of them are people I have worked with and the rest are people I had considered old friends. That these people, whom I had lost contact with, but still considered warmly, should ignore my request to join me on LinkedIn, is very instructive indeed. It says that, perhaps, my memories of them are undeserved, that the lingering warmth I feel for their inner image, within me, is inappropriate. It prompts me to re-evaluate my personal history.
Further examination of those who ignore my request is even more instructive. One of them was once considered my “best friend”. Yet, he has ignored my request now, for over a week and a half. Why has he not accepted? There is, perhaps, a clue in the number of his connections. He has HUNDREDS. He may actually begrudge me the advantage that would accrue upon accessing his network, given that mine is new and much smaller. There might be some selfishness at work here. Either that, or there are things I just don’t know about my former best friend, at all.
Then again, there is another LinkedIn member who has ignored my request. In this case I cannot be entirely certain that I have the right person, but it is extremely likely that I do, since he is in the same industry and has the same rare name. He is a writer, or as he puts it: “Independent Publishing Professional”. He is actually a best selling literary writer, whom I first met about 17 years ago, unbelievable as that is to write, now. Those 17 years seem awfully brief. I met him regularly, over the space of about six years in the 1990s, then a couple of times in the last decade (since I had left the country). However, it should be noted that I met him many times, and we had many conversations. I considered him a good friend. He, too, has ignored my request. In his case, I do wonder if he is, again, guarding his contacts, most of which are in publishing/writing. He knows that I am a writer. Perhaps he feels competitive.
LinkedIn is a test of the solidity of one’s relationships and friendships. If an overture to an old friend is ignored, then it allows one to reconsider whether that “old friend” was much of a friend at all – or whether they are too shallow to remember one, over the intervening years.
In a way, therefore, though disappointed, I am as grateful to those who refuse my LinkedIn request, as to those who accept. Those who refuse to join me on LinkedIn are letting me know the true nature of their feelings and thoughts towards me. They are letting me understand how little, perhaps, I really knew them at all.
So, here is a big thank you to all those who have joined me on LinkedIn – and just as big a thank you to all those who have refused to do so. You have spared me much time, in my future life, from considering you. Thanks.
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