Something for the Weekend, Sir? Norbert Spankmonkey has invited you to connect. Oh dear, not another one of these mystery invitations. Who the heck is Norbert Spankmonkey?
Did we exchange emails perhaps, or cross swords recently on a forum? Could I have met him at that conference earlier in the week, the one at the casino that ended with free drinks? I recall that I was on particularly good form that afternoon, which of course means I was probably very sweaty and shouty, slurring my jokes as I swirled my double JDs and leered into my conference colleagues’ faces as they looked on with horror.
A quick search of my recent email comes up with a blank. OK, let’s sign in to LinkedIn and see what Mr Spankmonkey has to say for himself.
I would like to add you to my professional network.
Nope, I still have no idea who he is. Clearly he doesn’t seem very keen on informing me, either. No worries, I’ll just click Delete. Bye bye, Nobby.
I am not normally so dismissive but these robotic invitations and requests have grown apace in recent months that I no longer have time to respond with my customary response:
Hello Norbert/Justin/Ranjit/etc. Thank you for inviting me to connect and join your professional network.
Please excuse my poor memory for names but who the fuck are you?
The swarm of invitations from people I most definitely have never met nor spoken to nor emailed nor anything increases towards the end of every week. My assumption is that unhinged desk jockeys around the world get bored from Thursday onwards and spend their time inviting every Tom, Dick and Dabbsy to be their imaginary friends.
When I make the effort to challenge them, these people invariably admit we are complete strangers and offer one of the following transparent excuses:
Excuse 1: The Absurd
I am a student in IT/media/fruit-juggling and want to learn from experts like yourself.
Excuse 2: The Salesman
Like you, I also work in IT/media/fruit-juggling and wish to keep you abreast of the latest publishing developments in the technology of balancing bananas.
Excuse 3: The Con-Man
We're looking for trusted partners on some projects at the moment which might be of interest for you or someone you know.
Excuse 4: The Stalker
I read your article in The Register and feel we have a lot in common. Can we be friends? Please?
I even had one last week from someone who eventually claimed that he had been trying to connect with someone with a similar name to mine. Nice try but ‘John Smith’ I ain’t.
My views on LinkedIn have been expressed in this column before: it’s a handy online CV of sorts (albeit one that tends to make you look overblown and yet a teensy bit desperate) but in my case has never once gained me any work or useful contacts. When I ask friends and colleagues, they tell me “Sure, I’ve had some jobs through LinkedIn” before knitting their brows, looking at the ceiling and adding vaguely “I think it was a few years ago…”
Well bully for you. All I get is American college students begging me for work placements, Indian businessmen hoping to sell me things I don’t want, dodgy English Arthur Daleys trying to relieve me of my savings and nutters with an unhealthy fixation for Friday-afternoon El Reg columnists.
Worse, I have begun to be inundated by a fresh round of invitations from people I actually do know through a seemingly inexhaustible stream of new and entirely superfluous business social networking apps. Why do people I’m already connected to feel the need to connect to me AGAIN via multiple increasingly pointless, utterly unnecessary and no doubt outrageously insecure online contact databases?
As if deliberately designed to be even more annoying than the last, these new apps vie with each other to have the stupidest name, such as Wazz, Splooj and Pharrt. I can’t tell you how my heart sinks when I receive the following kind of message:
Hank Waggenburger III wants to connect with you via Buttplugg!
Arguably, the cause of this recent explosion in alternative business social media is not so much envy of LinkedIn’s success than the realisation that Facebook has failed to live up to the hype. A business owner myself, I have been recommended many times to establish a Facebook page and get spamming everyone I know to give me Likes. I have always resisted because this is precisely the kind of thing I can’t stand when a company does it to me.
Especially despicable is the con in which a company will announce a “competition” to “win great prizes” and all you have to do, kids, is to click “Like” on our Facebook page.
Personally, I would derive much more satisfaction if Facebook introduced a “Fuck off and die” button or “Stick your pissy little competition up your arse” button on these business home pages. In fact, I think I’d be willing to pay per click.
Other people tell me to get my business act together on Twitter. This much I agree with but only because it’s expected of you. But Twitter’s cute premise of 140 characters, while strangely compelling and often entertaining, makes it singularly inappropriate for anything of substance.
I’m reminded of a MacUser magazine commission I was given in the late 1990s in which I was expected to write “top tips” for some software application or other, using precisely ten words for each. Try this out for yourself and you’ll see the problem:
Select your primary shapes, choose Object > Shape and click on
In the same way, you can’t inform or instruct or do real business over Twitter because the abridged format means you can’t get anything practical done with it. All you can do is hint at real stuff or mention that real stuff exists but not on Twitter itself. Call me a heretic but Twitter is NOT content: Twitter just links to content somewhere else. And Twitter conversations are terrible because you can only say stupid little things one by one and so it takes ages to work out what each of you are talking about.
Worse, people don’t have to ask to follow you on Twitter, they just climb on board and run about your feed like a child with OCD until you throw them back into the water. I’m talking about the Twitter nutter who feels compelled to comment on every bloody thing I post. What is it, a kind of social media Tourettes?
No more for me, thank you. So please accept my apologies, friends: I will not be networking with you via Schlong, Phajyna or ArceCrak any time soon.
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He maintains a strict separation of associates across social media: Facebook for friends and family only, LinkedIn for work acquaintances only and Twitter for anyone foolish enough to be under the assuredly mistaken impression that he would ever have anything remotely interesting to say.