As I have mentioned before, I am not a very sociable person. It is not that I am anti-social, shunning all human contact. It is that I am better described as asocial, someone who can interact with others on occasion and when necessary, but am perfectly comfortable being alone with my books, my thoughts, and of course the internet, where you can interact with the world without interacting with actual people.
For example, I hate attending large parties where one is expected to indulge in meaningless small talk with people one barely knows and likely will never meet again, but delight in small gatherings of close friends. I also enjoy interacting with students and colleagues at my university but after all such encounters, I long to get back to some solitude to recharge.
So it may come as a surprise that I am a member of several online social networks. I joined Facebook in its very early stages because I was curious as to what it was about. I also got a Twitter account in its early days for the same reason. I joined LinkedIn because a colleague and friend sent a message asking me to ‘link’ to her and I thought it would be rude to ignore or refuse her request. But in each of those cases, I do not use those networks at all, although the accounts still exist. You could say that I am an early adopter as well as an early abandoner of such things.
What surprises me is that despite my total passivity with all these platforms, from time to time people request to be my ‘friend’ or ‘link in’. If I know the person even in the slightest, I accept the offer. But I am puzzled when people whose names I do not recognize in the slightest make such a request. Again, I feel it would be rude to ignore or turn them down but am puzzled as to why anyone would want to connect with someone they do not know.
As a result of these requests I now have 143 friends on Facebook and 44 connections on LinkedIn. I suspect that this is tiny in comparison with others but I am shocked that it is so high, given my asocial nature and my complete passivity on these platforms. Even more bizarre, I even have 41 followers of my Twitter account, even though I have never sent a single tweet and do not follow anyone! If a Twitter-inspired revolution similar to the ones in the Arab spring were to ever occur in the US, I would be one of the last to know.
Any ideas as to why people want to friend or link to people they don’t know at all?