Chris Brogan got me thinking in his post entitled “Quid Pro No“. Chris asks a few questions about the online etiquette of reciprocation. If you follow me on Twitter, does that obligate me to follow you back? If you send me a connect request me on LinkedIn, does that require me to accept me? If you friend me on Facebook, am I obligated to say yes? Chris goes on to ask about the online etiquette of accepting invitations to join Facebook groups or other social networking sites.
The basic question here is whether or not we should feel obligated to accept all of these invitations. What is the etiquette? The answer is as varied as the number of people in all of the social networking sites on the internet. We all have our own ethics, our own standards of conduct and more importantly our own level of comfort regarding our privacy. We should make our choices based on our own set of priorities while not ignoring the “Golden Rule” principle.
The relationships we build online can be invaluable. The business associations, the support structure and the friendships we develop can be the basis for improvement of our lives. So is it wrong to be selective on the connections we choose to make? I think not. I think it is not only appropriate but necessary. If we state that our reason for being a part of a social network is conversations and relationships, shouldn’t we make sure that those conversations and relationships are valuable? Just as in “real” life (and that is in quotes because my online life is just as real to me as my offline), we don’t make friends or business associates out of every person we meet, why should we feel an obligation to do so online?
If we are using an open-minded, reasonably thought out, rational basis for choosing who we follow, friend, accept invitation from, shouldn’t that be enough? So, how do you make those decisions? What criteria do you use when making these choices?