Why link online with a stranger?

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So I finally succumbed to Facebook. It’s really your fault. You kept friending me. All your friend requests were starting to clog my Gmail account. It felt rude not to accept. Like I was refusing your friendship. Like I’m all that.

So far I’ve been friended by TIME colleagues and former workmates, sources and old school pals. My LinkedIn network is far more extensive and numbers now in the hundreds; those are almost exclusively work-related relationships.

About once a week, I get a request to link online from a complete stranger. Usually I click through to see if maybe I’ve just forgotten the name; maybe it’s someone I met once at a conference or interviewed for a long-forgotten story. But more often than not, it’s a complete stranger. More puzzling still, the introductory invitation is no more descriptive than “Please join my network.” No friendly how-do-you-do; I-know-you-from; this-may-seem-strange-but.

Here’s what I don’t get. Why would you request a link with someone you don’t know? What’s the point of online social networks if they represent people who don’t know you from Adam? Enlighten me.