Sometimes having easy access to statistics can cause us to focus on the numbers instead of our goal. I used this picture of my dogs for this post because their personality matches illustrates the point. Shelby and Cajun are easily distracted, Sundae will always remain tightly focused on her goal, especially her football. On the human side, I blame Facebook for the rise of the numbers game. That’s probably unfair but Facebook seems to encourage the race to see who can have the most friends. You end up friending people that you barely knew in the third grade and can’t even remember if they were male or female.
Facebook has made it both easy and entertaining for people to connect. They make it easy for you to stay in touch with family and friends. In these days of a very mobile community this can only be regarded as a good thing. There is a dark side though, there are a number of people making connections strictly to increase their own numbers. It’s good to have a goal but when people are more concerned about the numbers than the quality of the connection there seems to be something wrong with the goal.
I mention this because I’m seeing the same numbers games being played on Twitter and LinkedIn. Every once in a while someone starts following me on Twitter. When it’s a group, I’m almost assured that they are only trolling for numbers. They’ve looked at my profile and decided that I might be willing to follow them. They really have no interest in my blog, they only want to add me to their numbers. If I don’t respond by following them, they quickly stop following me and go off in search of someone else.
This doesn’t bother me. I understand why they do this and the people that follow you on Twitter have no effect on the people that you want to follow you. LinkedIn is a different issue. If you’ve never looked at LinkedIn, the concept is similar to Facebook but the linkages are based on job experience.
LinkedIn describes the connections as a network. Your network represents people that you have worked with or know personally. When someone adds you to their network (with your approval), you are automatically added to their network. By association, this connection implies that you approve of this persons skills and work ethic. Here is where the numbers game affects us.
In any job, you work with a number of people that you would never recommend. They may not be bad at what they do but they don’t represent your values or your vision of what their skill set should be. When they send you an invite to join their network, what do you do? Unlike Twitter, the people in your network do represent you. When someone looks at your profile on LinkedIn, they also look at your network. If they happen to know some of the people in your network, they judge you by the quality of the people in your network.
This is a case where the numbers game can really hurt you. If they are only looking for numbers you might not even know them. If you turn their invitation down, you risk hurting your relationship at work. If you accept, you become judged by their work persona.
Numbers mean a lot to me. I understand why people consider the number of friends they have on Facebook as their social status. I understand why people consider the number of followers they have on Twitter as a status symbol. I can even see why some people on LinkedIn look at the size of their network as a measure of success, I just don’t like it when I become part of it.
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