When I look at some of the online networking tools, I’m amazed by the number of ‘friends’ that people say they have. I think they’re undermining the tools, and making them less reliable.
Since it was launched, I’ve found Plaxo to be a useful tool, which updates my address book automatically when a contact’s e-mail address or phone number changes. It’s now developing into something more, with Plaxo Pulse, making it easier to see where you can extend your network out through your connections.
Soon after LinkedIn started up, I joined that too. It’s very useful for staying in contact with people as they change jobs, and putting people you know in touch. I’ve regained contact with ex-colleagues, helped business partners to make useful connections, and gained a couple of customers from using it.
But I took both of those websites at their word, and have only linked on Plaxo to people who I know reasonably well, and on LinkedIn only to people I would genuinely recommend.
In our lifetimes we’re supposed to know about 1700 individuals (family, friends and business contacts), and we’ll have had a circle of close friends of perhaps 50 people.
I just checked, and today I have 141 LinkedIn connections. Now, it surprises me that I know so many individuals whom I trust and would recommend. It seems like a lot, to me. But I see people on LinkedIn that have many hundreds more connections. Do they really have that many reliable friends and business acquaintances? Or could their acquisition of connections be the result of a compulsion to collect, or an indication of some kind of insecurity, or inability to set appropriate thresholds and boundaries?
Whatever the reason for there being a lot of people with many hundreds or thousands of connections, one thing I’m sure of is that it chips away at the idea of trusted links between individuals online.
What do you think? Are all of your online ‘friends’ real, or just an illusion?