Who’s in Your Circle? Connecting, Friending, and Following

How do you choose which requests to accept and which to decline? After reading Should You Clean Out Your LinkedIn Connections this morning, I started thinking about who I connect with and how I determine which relationships to initiate, maintain, and terminate. It’s easy to believe that more is better– whether it’s LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, but I don’t think this is the case. Just as I see each platform as having a different purpose, I cultivate relationships differently on each as well.


LinkedIn is touted as the place for networking and professional connections. Although I don’t use the platform to find jobs or even check on it daily, it’s the place that I’m most critical of my connections. As of this morning, I have over 500 connections on LinkedIn making it my smallest social network. Despite this, I have the urge to go through my connections and reconsider some of my connections.

I use LinkedIn to see who I’m connected to at a university when I’m job searching and I know others do the same. I’ve been asked several times by employers what I know about Jane or Jamal– candidates in their hiring pool– after they saw we were connected on LinkedIn. This is where I draw the line for my LinkedIn connections– do I know you well enough to recommend you and your work? Do you know me well enough to reciprocate? And perhaps more importantly — can you give an accurate, but also positive review of my work and our relationship if someone asked you?


Facebook is where my personal life lives. I share photos here of my family, my dog, my projects around the house, vacations, and the updates on the general humdrum of daily life. Although I don’t share anything I wouldn’t feel comfortable with strangers (or grandparents or employers) seeing, I like to keep this part of my online life personal. That said, my friends list tops 1,700.

This corner of my online life could use some pruning. My rule in the past has been “If I don’t know you or like you well enough to wish you a happy birthday, perhaps we shouldn’t be Facebook “friends” in the first place.” A bit harsh, I know. As for new friends, if I’ve never met you, there’s a very slim chance I’m clicking the accept button.

After visiting my Alma Mater’s Homecoming this weekend though, I stand by this. I ran into plenty of people I know and am still connected to through Facebook. One one hand, I felt like I know all about their lives through their status updates and photos; on the other hand, the encounters felt superficial and unnatural. My suspicions were confirmed when I read through this list of Be Happier: 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now. It suggests, “People may like your things–but that doesn’t mean they like you.” (italics added for emphasis) and “Genuine relationships make you happier, and you’ll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.”


The bulk of my interactions on Twitter have something to do with my work. I talk shop here with colleagues from across the world. One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is its non reciprocal nature. I can follow new organizations, celebrities, universities, authors, and other accounts without any expectation that they’ll engage with my content. This makes Twitter a great news source in addition to its role as a social media site. That said, when choosing who/what to follow I ask Can I learn from you? With you? I want my Twitter network to be a place that engages me, challenges me, inspires me, and teaches me.

Occasionally, I’ll log into a program like ManageFlitter to purge the list of accounts I follow. The service lets you filter out accounts based on inactivity, lack of profile picture, and accounts who are not following you back.

Instagram & Pinterest & GoodReads

In each of these places, my criteria is relatively the same: Am I interested in what you’re sharing?  On Instagram I want to see beautiful and interesting photos. I don’t have to know you to find beauty in your art. On Pinterest I follow people and boards that inspire me (delusional though I may be about my crafting and cooking skills). GoodReads includes many of my readerfriends. It’s a place to easily keep track of the books I’ve read, to find  more books to add to my ever-growing list, and to connect with friends who love to read.

How do you cultivate and curate your networks? 


8 thoughts on “Who’s in Your Circle? Connecting, Friending, and Following

  1. Becca,

    My one thing with LinkedIn and pruning connections which I would start today if I could see my connections is, are people getting value out of me being one of their connections more than them being one of my connections?

    That being, they may be relying on me as their gateway more than I am relying on them…and I am okay with that. If I can be a hub of connections, then let me be the hub of connections.

    So maybe think twice about cutting off ties there – granted if you don’t know them well enough to recommend them if they asked then perhaps they should be cut.

    You don’t want to horde connections but you also don’t want to cut someone out who may be relying on you to make an introduction.

    It’s almost as if the birthday rule applies to LinkedIn but moreso call in the cocktail party rule. If you are in a circle and had to introduce 5 of your LinkedIn connections to someone. Could you give each one a short introduction such as, “This is Becca, she works in higher ed and she has a fantastic blog” versus “This is Becca, and she works…where are you again? OH! that’s right and we went to…grad school? oh right no it was that one conference we went to together.”

    If that’s the case, you know which one to cut.

    I think it is hard for some people to realize the give and take of LinkedIn. There are plenty that I doubt get any value in me being one of their connections but in them being one of my connections, I value that greatly. Not in the self importance kind of way but in the “great I can reach them beyond 140 characters in a service that usually implies a thoughtful response” kind of way.

    Thanks for starting through your thoughts out there. Always bringing the wisdom to a tough conversation and topic.

    • Joe– Thanks for challenging me on this. I appreciate your perspective on the importance of being part of other people’s networks. Your cocktail party is a great example of how to measure your relationships with LinkedIn connections. As always, thanks for reading and for thinking so big :)

  2. Thanks for posting this Becca! I too, agree with your Facebook sentiments. I go through an annual Facebook “purge” (for lack of a better word), as I better appreciate more personal connections through this medium. That’s great if we went to high school together, but if we didn’t talk then and aren’t talking now, there’s no sense in maintaining that connection in my opinion. LinkedIn is still an anomaly to me – I’m on and I connect with people, but I struggle with its benefits. Ultimately, each (Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, etc…) all have very different uses and benefits in my opinion, it’s just about how you try and use each tool as effectively as possible. Oh, and thanks for the ManageFlitter resource as well!

    • Melissa, You are an excellent example of maintaining personal relationships through Facebook. I appreciate the effort you put into your connections and feel valued as a part of your circles. Thanks for reading!

  3. The LinkedIn rule I think is very important. I heard just what you said a few years ago and I have kept that in the back of my head- if I can’t write a stellar recommendation for you, I will not accept you.

    I think that people are too ‘accept-happy’ and try to build their ‘circles’ when in reality we need to keep them close and top-notch. There is no need to flood our news feeds with content that is irrelevant to our lives, even if it was once before.

    • Thanks for reading Kari, glad the LinkedIn strategy works for you too. It’s definitely the hardest for me to let go of content that used to be relevant to my life, but may not be anymore.

  4. I always love when you write Becca. I use the same Facebook rule when reviewing my friends list. If I only say ‘Happy Birthday’ to you once a year, (with or without an exclamation mark), there’s a high likelihood we aren’t connected on any sort of authentic level. I’ve also had to watch my Twitter lists so I’m not simply ‘drinking through a fire hose’ when I look at my feed but actually learning and, more importantly to me, initiating and having conversations that support mutual learning and growth. LinkedIn is still a bit of a mystery for me, as I’m currently using it to keep updated on the professional lives of people in my network. It’s never been about numbers for me, but I’m still struggling with how to make those connections more authentic. Thanks for sharing and keep writing! We need it!

    • Thanks Lisa. I use Tweetdeck to manage twitter, but could definitely be better about how I utilize my lists. I’d love to hear more from you on what works for you.

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