August 30 2007
Interest in the online social networks seems to be increasing. Every single day, I get new invitations to join LinkedIn networks. I created a Facebook profile a couple of weeks ago, and am getting frequently friended there as well.
It's starting to get tough to network. I know I'm hardly the first blogger to comment on this explosion. But I'm finding I have to make some decisions about how to use each system.
In my mind, I can see a segmentation between the two.
As others have said, LinkedIn is really a great online address book metaphor. I can find current information for people I know or knew, contacts in organizations where I need contacts, and get more professional background on contacts. Useful, but not interactive. They've added some features that make it somewhat more interactive, but nothing particularly compelling to me.
Facebook feels a lot more personal. It's an interesting reflection of the true "social" network, as I learn a lot more personal information about people I know and work with every day, as well as friends from other circles of life. But it's also a bit more revealing in that way, though obviously one can control the disclosure.
I mean no offense to anyone if I decline connection or friend requests. I think the word "friend" as used by Facebook should mean something, and a threshold for me is something along the lines of, is this a person I've shared a meal with, had a meaningful conversation with, or otherwise would recognize in a "crowd" (real or virtual). Without some criteria like that, Facebook feels a bit like a popularity contest. I mean, I like my friends, and I have been privileged to make friends with many of you over the last 4+ years. But I don't think everyone needs to know that I have a world traveler IQ of 125, really, do you? (Ha ha StuMac, I pwned you :-P)
LinkedIn, likewise, I have a threshold. I don't think it is as well-defined, but if I know nothing about you from the last three years, and wouldn't recognize you at a conference, then I'm probably not going to connect. As their canned script says, "as someone I trust...".
Oh, and no -- I don't have a myspace. For whatever reason, that one felt like the entropy that happens when professional and personal worlds collide. Not that it's always a bad thing, as I might try to acknowledge...next week.