Over the last few days, I've had a few social networking issues arise that gave me reason to question my own methodologies for maintaining online social networks. The first was a reference to Dunbar's number, which is a 'theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships', usually set at 150. Another was an instance wherein I circled (a G+ term) a vegan woman in Holland who sometimes has interesting things to say, only to uncircle her again when she began to rave about how popular she was and how awesome it was to have so many followers. A third was a public request from one of my Facebook subscribers to accept his friend request.
With regard to Dunbar's number, I need for my social networks to be productive places of interaction. That's why I don't auto-follow, especially on Twitter. If I know you, know of you or know you have something interesting to say, I'll likely either seek you out or accept your f-list requests when they come in. Vegans, writers and Gaelic speakers get more leeway here, unless they post graphic pictures of animal abuse or behave as though every person who f-lists them is either a potential fan or a worthless hunk of meat. Gaelic speakers are pretty much perfect already, so I have no examples to offer of rude behavior from them. ;)
Which leads me to the "I'm so popular" theory of social networking. I don't collect people, and I don't like to be collected. All of my social networks are open enough for the public to see and comment on my posts and to subscribe to my feeds. That way, I don't need to f-list you, and you don't need to f-list me for us to have a pleasant conversation. Further, I do subscribe to people I don't know simply because I like what they have to say, and for that reason I hope others won't take offense when I don't accept every f-list request that comes in.
As for being asked to accept f-list requests, it's one of those things that just isn't done as far as I'm concerned, and asking publicly makes the faux pas worse. There are mitigating circumstances in the situation I'm referring to, and I'm only mentioning it here as an example of what I don't care for, but still. And for Goddess' sake, don't frienemy me and expect any sort of response at all. I won't be pressured into pretending I have a good opinion of you if I don't.
I expect that as time passes, and I get around to conventions/Gaelic gatherings/etc. and meet awesome people, I'll leave that Dunbar number way behind me. But it will be because I've met you, or you've said something cool, or I want to hear about your incredible activism/writing/Gaelic/whatever. I also hope that my writing someday engages readers enough to come and see what I'm up to online and talk to me from time to time. That would be such an incredible compliment, and I would delight in engaging that conversation. That said, I won't rush the growth of my social network for the sake of numbers. I won't be treated like a number, I won't treat you like a number and I won't be pressured into any sort of connection I don't choose to make. I hope that sounds at least somewhat fair and non-egotistical. I just want for my online interactions to be as meaningful as they can be, and I want you to know that I value your dignity and your place in my online social life.