LinkedIn is a Virus

So today this happened:

And I feel like I should explain how this went down, because the event and the aftermath have been interesting.

It started when I was responding to a friend asking me to connect on LinkedIn, via the automated emails. I get about 4-5 a week and I usually ignore 90% of them since I don't recognize the name of the person asking me, but this one was different. I clicked the "connect" button in the HTML email, and got a page saying we were connected and by the way, do you want to import your address book to find more people?

I'd known the person that asked me to connect for about 8 years, so I figured I should try their Gmail connection tool to see who else I've known for years that I've missed. I clicked a button, it started importing, then it gave me a page showing six people with check boxes by each (everyone auto-checked) with a button to send an invite. I didn't recognize 5 of the 6 people so I unchecked those, and hit the big connect button, not knowing that it was auto-selecting 1,138 other names I had to scroll down to see. I realized this mistake soon after clicking, and closed my browser tab hoping that would halt the process.

It didn't.

The aftermath has been annoying, fun, interesting, and illuminating. Responses started coming back in at the rate of about 10-12 per minute for the first 15 minutes. A few people wrote personal notes back, which was nice. Two people called me, both people I barely exchanged email with for business reasons years ago.

After they started slowing down, I began reading them all and realized a few things:

  • There are a lot of social media manager type jobs
  • A heck of a lot of people work at Facebook now
  • Gmail treats subject lines as duplicates on first names and the clear winner of most responed-to LinkedIn requests are from other people named Matt and Matthew. There must be a reason for this.
  • People work at a lot of weird startups I've never heard of
  • It emailed every person I've ever interacted with over Gmail, I got one response from someone that works at a trucking company, probably because I fixed a typo of theirs on MetaFilter years ago

It's unfortunate that LinkedIn works the way it does and that this happened, most people that responded to me with messages thought I was making a concerted gesture and trying to reconnect, and/or about to look for a job. I think of business contacts as a pretty serious thing, I don't hand out business cards readily unless I really want to be called up by someone, and yet, LinkedIn just pushed out connections to over a thousand people on my behalf without me knowing what it was really doing.