I am fortunate.  According to LinkedIn I have more friends than I realise.  Just about every day an email arrives informing me that Jeremy Whatsit ‘has indicated you are a friend’.  This is followed by a curt note saying ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network. Jeremy’.  I am then offered a stark choice; accept or ignore.

When this first started to happen, I admit I was a softy with a propensity to accept because to do otherwise seemed, well, rude.  However, I soon discovered that saying yes to one person inevitably triggered other invitations as Jeremy’s other friends are reminded of my existence and vaguely remember meeting me at a conference 30 years ago.

Sometimes I send an email to the person claiming to be my friend, thanking them and asking them to remind me when we met.  I have never received a reply.  I appreciate that this may be because LinkedIn quietly censor this sort of spoiling tactic (‘he’s not sticking to the rules; accept or ignore’).  When I found this didn’t lead to any enlightenment, I simply started to delete the original message but soon discovered that this only brings temporary relief.  After a couple of weeks, LinkedIn send me a reminder listing all the people claiming to be my friends that I have callously left in suspended animation and, whilst it doesn’t actually say so, fretting not to have heard from me.  I have received the latest reminder this very morning naming 15 people anxious to be confirmed as my friends.

The gracious side of me wants to take the easy way out and do an en masse acceptance.  The pedantic side feels irritated.  Real friends wouldn’t dream of sending me curt notes indicating they are my friend.  We already know who we are. My dictionary says a friend is ‘a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection and loyalty’.  None of these ‘friends’ from LinkedIn come close.

So, here’s some advice if you want to add me to your professional network.  Firstly, stop pretending you are my friend, being a mere colleague or an acquaintance will suffice.  Secondly, remind me where we met.  Thirdly, flatter me – tell me how much you admire my work, that you have read all my books, that you love my website, that I have been instrumental in changing your life (preferably for the better!), that you have named your kids after me.  That sort of thing.

If you can’t bring yourself to grovel like this, then I’m afraid I shall feel totally justified in ignoring you no matter how many reminders arrive from LinkedIn.

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