Social ... or Asocial Networks?
Would you ever go empty-handed to a pot-luck dinner?
Have you ever peeped at your classmates’ test while covering yours with your hand?
If your answer is YES – even at only one question – keep away from the Social Networks! They’re not for you.
Why? Being in a social network should imply (yes, “should” is necessary) the knowledge and acceptance of the processes that drive people in the world “to do Networking” everyday more: share common interests, discover more of them, keep people in touch, establish relationships, create combined professional and personal careers, connections. At the bottom of all this, a good element of trust is necessary. It is a system where the “junction points of the network” are the single persons, and those who are connected to them, and so on … However, not everyone sees it this way.
February 2010, a stranger invites me to get in touch with him on LinkedIn.
In the invitation he wrote “Congratulations Monica for your very careful profile and for your experience, I would like to expand my network and get in touch with you. I would be grateful if you could accept my request. Warm regards”.
Well, I thought, “oh! Here is a kind one who doesn’t send the same old default request and at least drops you a line” (oh yes! Even here good manners do not excel). I had a look at his profile, the person and his company seemed interesting “…why not?” . Click! Accepted.
The day after I went back to read his profile, I was curious …who knows what opportunities could start, maybe we have friends in common? ZOT! surprise! The link to his contacts …doesn’t work! I asked him why, the answer was: “For privacy reasons, my contacts are not visible, I use LinkedIn for professional purposes”….Whaaat?!? why? what did he think to do with LinkedIn, playing Risiko on line? ... tomato sauce for the amatriciana? What does this answer mean?
So, in a professional social network like LinkedIn, the most crowded digital agora of business in the world with 100 million members, more than 1,5 million of which in Italy, where’s the sense in expanding one’s own “circle” of friends and at the same time preventing others form doing that? Mmm….it sounds no good, my friends!
Why does this happen? For an “almost” countless number of reasons (there is quite something, you’ll see) but in the meantime, for those who don’t know them, we’ll explain the odd “settings“ of LinkedIn, they carry weight in this issue (every social network has its rules):
When you sign in you have to fill in a set-up, you can decide who can see who in your “links” (LinkedIn uses this word to indicate your contacts, the persons you are connected to): ALL your links or ONLY YOU. Here, unlike other social networks where you can let others know your contacts “selectively”, depending on the level of knowledge and trust (for people or lists you specified, excluding who you want) you have 2 options only: you can either make your links visible TO ALL you get in touch with, or TO NONE. You can change the option whenever you want. As a matter of fact, yes, it’s very restrictive, you are obliged to “fit all with one size”! But all suggestions sent by members to modify this rule were of no use.
Now, hiding, or as we say, making one’s own links (or contacts) “blind” – regardless of the “reason why” – means also strongly narrowing the opportunity to look for/find people with whom getting in touch for a specific reason (skilled resources, partnership, find old workmates, identify the best decision maker for a trade proposal, look for a supplier, etc …) and … that of making yourself visible, of course! for the links of the person who “doesn’t share” his/her network, and for the links of those links.
No one has ever demonstrated it’s true, ... but – at least so far – no one has ever demonstrated the opposite!
The Theory will prove very convincing for you too; especially if you regularly attend social networks. You already know: the internet world is really small! (*)
Therefore, what’s this little “asocial” – let’s face it, no insult intended - very “nonsense” attitude in a social network? An heritage of the infantile selfishness, pure self-interest or….? – that’s too easy! – How many/which hidden motivations do take root in the human brain and cause such paradoxical behaviors? Just in the place where “sharing” is the key word, the driving, vital force?
We asked this ourselves too. Maybe it’s because I believe that stereotypes tend to make all of us banal, maybe because the common behavior towards those who “don’t share their contacts” in the social networks is quite critical, even with touches of heated intolerance, I said to myself: mmm…I want to get to the bottom of this!
Therefore, on an impulse, I launched a poll nearly one year ago based on a question "In your opinion, those who don’t share their contacts on LinkedIn … why do they do so?" in order to understand and make others understand, beyond any easy judgment and prejudice.
Even if it’s unkind to go empty-handed to a pot-luck party, these people … act the same in every situation and dimension! The internet, however, can emphasize the extreme sides, positive or negative, in the image it gives of itself. The fault in this, perhaps, is the illusion of a diversity in the network. Watch out !
If you are wondering why I am discussing it here only NOW, I tell you that the topic is more and more relevant on LinkedIn: members increase in number, there is more and more often someone who raises this issue again. I thought it proper and I hope also useful for you to share the experience and the results that came out. Should it happen to you (to meet someone who doesn’t share) … you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s get straight: Sacred free will! Every choice is legitimate, ... as it is also legitimate the right to decide if keeping that person within one’s own contacts or not.
Let’s get back to the poll, how was it structured? Through an ad hoc LinkedIn application, members could anonymously answer the “Poll”. Only one limit: 5 possible “closed” answers only, among which only one could be chosen. Few indeed! Problem sorted out! I launched the question in 15 Italian Groups on LinkedIn selected at random, therefore each member could have his/her say leaving one or two comments in a public and interactive discussion. Runtime: 1 month (I will never forget that month - ... nor will my husband. Santo subito! – for the nights spent answering the comments and moderating passionate supporters of the YES or NO sharing).
The following qualitative and textual analysis of the collected comments (although the sample involved a little number of individuals, it was representative enough), has been difficult but it highlighted unexpected aspects and a “long echo” of different motivations, multi-faceted like diamonds, as I suspected! It was worth the effort.
Making the motivations readable and interpretable, grouping them in “clusters” by type, allows us to better outline the scenario compared to our “pure assumptions” and find answers … pertinent or not, valid or not, acceptable or controversial for the analyzed behavior, you will decide. .. after seeing the results of the Analysis – quantitative and qualitative - in this slide-show PDF).
On the motivations connected to the “privacy”, however… there is a BIG point!
How strange we are the human kind, so strange that it could be wondered if from the Universal Creation some weird bug escaped the planning stage.
Why protecting the contacts from other mortals like us looking out for opportunities to stay alive when there will always be someone who sees everything more than anyone else?
Who? LinkedIn Corporation, of course! Its company form is not exactly that of a fraternity for the development of relationships in the internet, if you didn’t know it.
“Since the internet is not a 100% secure environment, we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to LinkedIn. There is no guarantee that information may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed by breach of any of our physical, technical, or managerial safeguards.”
Mmmm!….”managerial”, oh-oh….think about it!. But if we have such “confidential” personal and professional contacts, so “precious” that we cannot disclose them to a third party, is a social network the best place to share/not share these “secrets”…?
Finally, as “Online schools” reports on its website (that I suggest you to visit, you will find the link here below).
“The Internet is a strange, huge beast. It is getting bigger, faster and more mobile each day. Ferocious social networks fight each other to be on top and gain more of our attention and personal information. An entire economy is generated from our browsing habits. This is the face of the Internet now.”
So, have a good summer!… But... whether you choose to “share” or not …do it consciously. The Internet won’t forgive carelessness. All you do or say online could be used against you …this is the other face of the Internet. Magical, fatal, exciting but … a little bastard, yes! … inside & out.
For “the sake of science and knowledge”, I have only provoked, collected, analyzed and shared. Now it’s your turn.
Think of it under your beach umbrella. That’s all, folks!
Cofounder & VP ASSORETIPMI, Experienced Marketing Mgmnt, Digital Communication, Business Development & Networking on B2B
Note & Credits:
English version by my professional translator and great friend Monica D'Antonio
(*) An extraordinary dynamic and updated infographic in real time of the internet situation in the world: http://www.onlineschools.org/state-of-the-internet/soti.html
(**)Slide-show PDF of the research "Un-public Investigation").