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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Anonymous friend

Unless you’ve been living in a well your whole life, you will not be unfamiliar with social networks such as those whose icons adorn right panel just below my photograph. You are probably also not unaccustomed to receiving friendship requests from people about whom you haven no idea. Since whole concept of social network is to make friends, therefore such requests from random strangers are not something to agonize about. What is irksome, though, is how the process evolves.

Of over 100 anonymous friendship requests I’ve received in my internet avatar, only one was accompanied by an explanation. Rest were mere requests from people whom I’ve not met without any insight into why they want to befriend me. Unlike others, I am less generous. I simply reject these requests. Some people perhaps do this to increase their friend count, though how and why that’s relevant is beyond me. Perhaps higher number in friend’s list is desperate attempt by them to appear more popular by befriending all and sundry. Why do I reject a mere request from anonymous friend? For one, if a stranger doesn’t have regular courtesy even to introduce himself then what is there to interest me in him except to indulge his desire to increase his virtual popularity? I don’t want to clutter my friend’s list with people I don’t know about thus making it difficult to keep track of people I want to know about. After all, if stream of updates grows longer and is interspersed with random Joe eating his dinner then knowing that my best friend visited Delhi becomes more difficult. Another reason is what happens next.

Even if I friend hitherto unknown person, I am sure not to hear from him ever again. That one person who befriended me with proper introduction too has disappeared in my friend’s list never to be seen again. So what was the point again, if not to cultivate and grow friendship among strangers? No conversation, nothing. Ultimately, it boils down to keeping my friend’s list manageable with real friends. But I am aware that I am in minority among denizens of internet in this behaviour.

On some occasions, few have taken umbrage at my rejection. One cannot please all people all the time and being bothered about indignation of strangers is little low on my priority in list of things to worry about. There are people who are offended at nothing and frankly, that’s the part of life. You may have met all kind of people in life but every next person is still a surprise. For instance, a Ms. V asked me how am I connected to her on LinkedIn, a professional networking site. Since she had requested connection, but I didn’t know it then, I postulated few hypothesises:

I...don't know. I mean, I don't have you in my address book so I couldn't have sent invite myself in bulk. I remember you adding me and I probably approved in bulk. Since you work in recruitment agency and I am from IIMA, I thought that's your work at play. May be you intended different Ashish Gupta and added me by mistake? If there is a way to find out who added whom, we can try. Or we can disconnect. Or we can try to know us. Sorry, I seriously don't know.

Somehow, I offended her with my “curt” response. Some days later when I mailed her back saying that it was she who invited me to befriend, I was at shock at her reply:

I don’t know how to take it.....Anyways it seems I knocked at the wrong door....If you wish you can delete me from your Connections...I should admit I never encountered such a bad exchange.... :(

At some level, I am amazed at my ability to antagonize a perfect stranger with few lines of email. After all, my communication skills need immediate overhaul if something is wrong at my end. On the other hand… What’s your neutral take? Seriously, I want to know.
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