LinkedIn long ago automated the "connection" process. Asking someone to connect is as easy as clicking a button. Accepting a request is just as easy. And therein lies a problem.
Making and accepting requests is so easy that it now seems commonplace for people to connect even though they don't really want to.
Earlier today I received a LinkedIn connection request from someone I don't know, and whose company was unfamiliar to me. This happens all the time.
At a glance I saw that he and I shared three mutual LinkedIn connections (made clear by the How You're Connected display in the right margin of his profile). I sent a quick email to each of the three mutual contacts (people I do know).
My note said, "I see you're connected to So-and-So. What does his company do? Should I connect with him?"
"I messed up. I accepted his LinkedIn invitation
thinking he was someone I know."
All three connections wrote back within a few minutes.
The first reply:
I accepted it too fast lol! I saw his connection to [his past employer] and thought they were looking for people ha! Don't accept, I'll be sacrificial lamb and when he tries to talk me into something I'll tell you what it is.
A moment later, this answer from the second mutual contact:
I messed up. I accepted his LinkedIn invitation yesterday thinking he was someone I know with a similar name, but then realized I didn’t know him. I know nothing about him or about [his company]. Sorry.
The third and final reply:
Oops! I had a bunch of requests pending and I must have clicked through them all too fast. I don't actually know him.
Notice a pattern?
By automating the connection process, we risk ignoring what we already know about establishing relationships. I’ve done the same thing myself, more than once. In the last month or so, I’ve done the “company with a similar name” thing, and the “salesperson with the same name as a volunteer” thing.
Luckily, it's easy to sever an undesired connection on LinkedIn: mouse over the downward arrow beside the "Endorse" button in the person's profile. The bottom-most menu item is "Remove connection."
I have said that LinkedIn could help us build stronger networks by making it harder to send an invitation (See: The Problem Sentence: How LinkedIn Hinders Effective Networking). But the burden is on us too. We need to slow down as we view connection requests, read the name, the company, and the message, and then view the sender's profile.
Thinking before clicking will help ensure that our connections link us to people to whom we actually want to connect. And this in turn will make for more trusted, more valuable networks.