You Want to be my Friend? Seriously?

I’m a friendly guy.

I like people. I’m interested in them and their lives, and I enjoy learning about new people and creating new relationships. That may be why I get so engrossed in social media, participating in community after community as I found people that I knew, or had things in common with. But as more people begin to participate in  social networks I find myself getting confused. I enjoy having friends, both online and off.  They make me happy, they make me think, they make me connected to the world in a larger sense, and they make me think. In short, they complete me (HT Jerry Maguire) .  I have real connections to the people in my life, and in my social networks. I don’t make random connections with people just because we both own computers and have internet access, and in fact have specific rules for accepting connections in different spaces. As a result of that thought process, my online engagement is based on specific standards,my online relationships are relevant to me, and hopefully find my interaction relevant to them. In a world where people are talking about trimming their online relationships because they had gotten out of hand, my smaller and more manageable communities still suit me just fine. But I still face a problem.

Random people appear in my social spaces, wanting to connect with me for no apparent reason. Frankly, I can’t think of a good reason for them to do so, though I can think of one or two poor reasons.Possibly they think that a large online network will in and of itself create business opportunities for them., Maybe they want to access my network of friends to promote goods or services I don’t endorse. Maybe they want my friends to assume incorrectly that I know and recommend them and their companies. If that’s the case, instead of asking me to be their friend, maybe they should be asking me to be their pimp. But even that would be a more honest relationship, because I would have a commercial reason for spreading their commercial message. Bottom line? I just don’t want to play that game.

I need to know who you are and how we are connected to determine if I want to be your friend. Just like in “real life” – because this is “real life”. As I write this, I have over 340 people in what I call “Facebook Purgatory”. They have sent me a friend request, and I don’t know who they are, why they want to be my friend, or more importantly, why I would want to be theirs. Sometimes their request comes with a self-promotional blurb about what they do and why we should connect. Almost always, the blurb is a reason for them and not a reason for me (I should refer them to Permission Marketing or the ClueTrain Manifesto, but their success is just not important to me) In many cases, they say nothing, and hide their personal information, so all I have to make my decision is their photo and the fact that they want to be my “friend”. Somehow that just doesn’t work for me. (Sadly , some of these people might be folks I would connect with if I remembered who they were, but by not taking a moment to remind me of our face to face connection, we both miss an opportunity to grow our relationship)

So here is my suggestion. If you want to connect with me for business reasons on Facebook, ask me to “like” your business, produce or service. Don’t pretend to want a relationship with me. If you do want a relationship with me, let me know something about yourself so I can make that decision – or let me know where we may have met so I can make the connection. It may be surprising to some, but we all don’t look exactly like our profile pictures all the time, so a little memory help could be nice. My online community is really a community to me. One where I want to know all the members and have some real connection to them – so for that reason, and for now, I’ll keep asking the questions in the title. That works for me.

What works for you?

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