Friend of a friend

So, recently, a business associate told me I should further develop my network on LinkedIn. I know that’s sort of a horrible sentence but there you have it. I have business associates and they advise me to do things that probably have some purpose beyond my understanding. Generally I am okay with following their directives so long as they don’t involve public nudity or large amounts of money. They know more than me about some stuff.

The way LinkedIn works is by burrowing into your address book and your resume and your underwear drawer and pulling up long lists of names and smiling portraits and you are supposed to click on people who you know and want to link to. When you do, each person’s links are then joined to yours in an ever-expanding gyre of connections until every man, woman and Chihuahua on the planet is arrayed in concentric circles around you.

Let me now confess something else to you. Despite how garrulous I may appear within the confines of dannygregorysblog.com, I am not an especially outgoing person. For much of my career, I was the person standing in the dimly lit corner of the office party, gnawing carrot sticks and clutching a bottom-shelf gin and tonic. I was not glad-handing, back-slapping or table-hopping. Over time, as I grew older and slunk up the ladder, I knew more and more people who didn’t seem to despise me so I would allow myself to slink out of the safe zone and talk to people. But I was never and never will be a ‘networker.’ Fortunately for me, I have been in love with two women who were quite the opposite and dragged me into various social circles where I could mumble and make self-deprecating remarks to ever-increasing numbers of people.

When Linked In began to present me with long lists of smiling faces, I swallowed hard. Some faces looked familiar, some names looked familiar, and I began to click on the faces and request to be connected. Some people were easy, the ones who I knew well and who were outgoing. Some were harder, people I knew well but who I was embarrassed to be asking, who I assumed would scoff at such a fawning request, surprised that I was not, like them, too cool for school to network.

My associate prodded me to further expand my timid circle and so I delved deeper. I began to click on the faces of those I had not shot the breeze with in their cubicle and not invited to lunch, but had sat with in endless meetings, sometimes with dozens of others, people in other departments, of other ages and ranks, like soldiers in adjoining platoons, veterans of the same wars but not aways the same battles. People who I might nod to as we motored past each other in the hall, who I might have had that one long talk with as we waited for a flight to Columbus or Wichita for another regional committee meeting, people who I might have even had one drink too many within a Holiday Inn Express lobby on the eighth night of a shoot that seemed it would never end and shared opinions and revelations that I woke up the next day to regret.

And then there were those faces who I knew and who I knew knew me but who I thought hated me for one slight or another — a layout I hadn’t approved, a suggestion I had dismissed, an opinion I had contradicted. I winced reflexively thinking about what they might think years later when I appear on their virtual doorsteps, hat in hand. I assume these requests would be junked, that I would never hear from the person whose meeting I had twice arrived ten minutes late for, the person who scowled that one time when I interrupted in a briefing, the person whose coffee mug I had taken by accident.

But masochistically, I clicked their faces nonetheless.

In the next few hours, I received emails, confirming that even these outliers were willing to open their chains and link to mine. I reached out to a few with InMail™ messages, tail between my legs, wishing them well in their new endeavors. And they responded, tails aloft and wagging hard, sometimes with their paws stretched out, ready to play.

I’m perplexed and dismayed that someone who spends so much effort thinking about and writing about and drawing himself can be so self-unaware, that I often have no idea how I appear to others. I can think I have offended someone and they have no idea what I mean. I can think I have been a pal to someone and they will reveal a long-held grudge. I can pour over a blog post and get a stinging response from some reader, dash off another one unthinking and hear it has helped someone else a lot.

Despite my quest for seeing myself objectively, I have come to terms with the fact that it is pretty much impossible. In part, because no one else sees me objectively. In part because there may not be any absolute truth there. In part, because my monkey still lurks back in that dark hole. But most of all because I am a work in progress.

I try to do my best most of time, to avoid being a selfish dick, to contribute where I can and to take others’ feelings into consideration. But beyond that, I have to stick to my own knitting, to be true to what I know of myself, and to hope that those who are in my newly expanded network of links will see and value those things that I am.

It’s important to connect with others, to engage, to be of service, and not spend ones’s days crouched in a shadowy hermitage. But it’s just as important to link in with oneself.

25 thoughts on “Friend of a friend”

  1. But Danny, Danny, Danny. I love my hermitage – the comfort, the safety, the freedom to be “me” without the judgement and expectations of others. Oh all right. I hear ya. I’ll make an effort. Thanks much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, thanks for writing about the dirty little secret that I bet many of us have thought but no one (or few) have put into words!

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  3. One of the happy days of my life was the day I quit Linked-In… never more, never more…. I will not need it where I’m going… which is straight to… well not working lol… at a job anyway… closer and closer to retiring from the workforce forever.

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  4. I have quit both Linked-in and Facebook. Both are a distraction and take me away from more important things.

    Getting the need to connect, I prefer face-to-face. There is nothing that can’t be found over a cup of coffee in all good time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Danny, you’re just a wonderful, creative introvert! Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, was such an eye-opener to me in that regard. Here’s the piece I submitted for her Quiet Revolution site: http://www.quietrev.com/portraits/cindy-putnam-mcmillion/ There are lots of us out here who are not the glad-handing type and wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re social, we like people, but we just get easily overwhelmed by too much interaction.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Exactly. I have attempted to unlink from linked in and can’t seem to shake the beast. I wish you well.

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  7. Too funny. I set myself up on Linked in many moons ago. I still get invitations to find new friends. Don’t have to find them that way. Trouble is, like Linda, I can’t get unlinked either!!! Linked for Life😖😖😖. What a concept!

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  8. I decided a few years ago, after I retired, that I did not need to belong to all of these “circle” groups. Facebook is enough for me to stay in contact with family & friends. I don’t do Linked In or Google Plus or anything else. Time is short to do the things I want to do, so it may be that the people you have asked are also like me. Nothing to do with you at all that they are not replying. I delete every message asking me to join such groups. I also continually look for email senders that I can unsubscribe from. If I am no longer interested in that offering I unsubscribe.

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  9. Only last night I clicked through onto the linked in process after many many months ignoring it. I did this because a distant acquaintance, who I know does something in an area I want to develop & progress into. So I did the linkedin thingie! Danny I agree with all you say…as usual….come to think of it I never hear of people really connecting in some meaningful way throughout linkedin as you are with this wordpressblog. Facebook with its groups and all its weird big brother scary connections I would say is much more meaningful!. I tried twitter when it first came out and also checked out Periscope lately and have decided to ignore these as massive wasters of time and connection.
    We live in interesting times

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  10. My “networking” circles revolve around the things that I love. I love our Hoboken neighborhood and our neighbors. My stoop gives me a chance to catch up with people and meet new ones, sometimes sharing a beer or glass of wine. I support my boys’ high school by volunteering in a variety of ways. I have met wonderful parents and faculty and appreciate these friendships very much. I like to draw and paint. Sketchbook Skool’s community provides a network of people with similar interests. How fun it is to chat with people from across the globe about art supplies! Plus now I have people I love to sketch with in my area. These are my networks. I guess they are limiting in terms of career prospects or fame and celebrity but they give me joy so I will stick with them.

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  11. Thanks for all of your comments..it is helpful to see the different sides of things.. I am not on Facebook or Linked in as I already feel
    overwhelmed with the wonderful people in my life. How to be an artist, and also slightly promote one’s blog, and artwork.. confusing. How to blend the wonderful hermit parts
    with the need to join what seems to be the way the world find one? Not a luddite just confused?

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  12. What!!! You are not suppose to tell people this secret we all share. LOL Seriously, good article. Most people feel this way even the glad handers. I’ve been on both sides and always felt odd. Now I’m very friendly and loving but I don’t get close anymore. This may change again as all things do. 😉

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  13. “O, would some Power the good Lord give us
    To see ourselves as others see us.
    It would from many a blunder free us; And foolish notion.
    What airs in dress and gait would leave us; And even devotion.”
    ~~Robert Burns

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  14. Oh my goodness me, that post made me laugh and cry at the same time. Laugh because it reminds me of my own style of being a person, and cry probably for the same reason. Thank you! I always tend to think that, if you and I had been students in the same class, we would’ve gotten along great…or hated each other deeply. Nothing mediocre, though.

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  15. This post is relevant to how I have been thinking and feeling lately. I recognized names from one or two of last year’s klass at Ruzuku. Somehow it seems that we have been scattered, I do not know if that is true but it just seems that way. So, I will continue to post on Facebook and the new student union which holds so much promise. I also look forward to more of your posts as they seem to be following a lot of what I am experiencing. Thank you Danny.

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  16. Reblogged this on Laurel Johnson and commented:
    Thank you, Danny. I was laid off two weeks ago, so today is the day I’m going to suck it up and try to expand my LinkedIn network further, even to people I used to work with. All the fears you mentioned – did they like me – do they have a grudge – are very dominant this morning. Thanks for a great post!

    Like

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