It was just a short time ago when I returned from working overseas and reluctantly, with great apprehension, entered into the foreign digital culture of LinkedIn.
In many ways it has been very positive. I now have 92 connections. While that may not be too impressive to the LinkedIn sages, it is nonetheless quite pleasing to me. As the old adage goes, quality over quantity and my connections are of the highest quality and I appreciate and highly value each and every one of them.
At the early stages of my enculturation I wrote about my trepidation and about the perils of being “disconnected” should you violate the social mores that dictate appropriate conduct in this electronic subculture. I had heard references to the extreme penalty of “disconnection” but this was reserved for the most egregious violations of the code.
Anyone who knows me would (I hope) say that two of my key character strengths are honor and respect and I would never consciously do anything to offend or insult anyone.
After all, I am a seasoned professional with international experience and am sensitive to cultures, customs, traditions and the general social mores of many cultures, how different could this be?
Naiveté is so charming, is it not?
So here is what happened. It was a leisurely Sunday afternoon and I was checking out updates from my LinkedIn connections. One in particular compelled me to click on it with the headline “You are welcome here”. Upon clicking, there was a photograph of a sign that read “A cannon will be fired during today’s event”.
I found this to be quite amusing and posted the following comment; “Unless you are at a civil war reenactment or a Ted Nugent BBQ, you should seriously reconsider your social circles”.
After scrolling down through a number of additional updates, I went back to look at the picture again as I was going to save it (again because I found it humorous). To my surprise, the update along with my comment had been deleted. Confused, I went to my list of connections and to my shock and dismay, found that he was no longer listed. The range of emotions was something I had not experienced in a very long time, if ever.
Oh my gosh! Could I have in some way inadvertently offended my highly valued connection and as a result been tried, convicted and sentenced to “disconnection” for my crime?
My first reaction was to email him and apologize profusely if my feeble attempt at humor in some way was dishonorable, disrespectful or offensive and assured him that was not my intent. I was in an absolute state of panic.
When I finally came in off the ledge and was able to ponder with more objectivity, I came to the sad realization that the link between me and my valued connections is extremely fragile. It also highlighted the difficulty in cultivating a very selective group of connections and how easily they can be lost.
As it turns out, my “humorous” comment had in fact offended him and as a result he took my advice to “seriously reconsider his social circles”. Needless to say, I am no longer in any of those circles.
I am deeply saddened, first and foremost, that I offended him but also for the loss of someone who I highly valued and respected and that I was honored to be connected with.
To my remaining valued and honored connections, if in the future I inadvertently offend you, will you please give me the opportunity to explain before disconnecting?