It took me a while to get on LinkedIn.
I knew I should do it, both for my own career as well as to help some of my colleagues that I am mentoring, but I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to sit down and learn yet another online system.
Despite my misgivings I finally sat down and created my account. I entered the usual work and school history and then I looked around for a few people I knew and sent them connect requests to get things rolling.
And that’s when things started to get weird.
Out Of The Woodwork
Over the course of a week the people I had reached out to accepted my requests, I sent a few more requests, and I started receiving some requests from people I worked with.
As my connections started to grow I began to get requests from people I only sort of knew and even some people I didn’t know at all (colleague of a colleague of a colleague type stuff).
Even worse, some of the requests came from people I didn’t actually like or respect, and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle that.
Should I ignore them? Or decline the request? Or just play nice and accept it anyway?
In the end I caved in and accepted the requests … and I immediately noticed a shift in my thinking that set off all sorts of alarms.
The Benjamin Franklin Method Of Networking
I was immediately reminded of the Ben Franklin Effect.
In his autobiography (which you’ve read as Charlie suggests, right?), Franklin gives an example where he asked to borrow a rare book from a man that didn’t much care for him.
Franklin asked for the favor intentionally, noting that in lending the book to Franklin the man experienced some cognitive dissonance. Eventually the man came around and the two became friends.
In short, the poor guy couldn’t both dislike Franklin and also deem him worthy of borrowing a very special book. Either:
- Franklin was a good person that could be trusted with the book, or
- The man had lent his precious book to someone he shouldn’t have
And in the end he chose to believe option 1.
I’ve Been Networked
It dawned on me that by accepting the requests from the people I didn’t really like I was experiencing the same effect as the guy that let Franklin borrow his book.
If I didn’t like these people, why did I choose to connect with them? Either I chose poorly, or I must not dislike them as much as I thought …
Granted, accepting a LinkedIn request doesn’t carry the same weight as lending a priceless book, but it is still doing a favor for someone and I’m sure it has a least some pull on my psyche as a result.
The Ben Franklin Effect And LinkedIn
So how would Ben Franklin have used LinkedIn?
I suspect he would have recognized that the book-borrowing effect he pioneered is alive and well in the world of social media and would be sending out connect requests like mad to people would didn’t like him.
And I think maybe I will too.
What do you think? Are social media connect/friend requests examples of the Ben Franklin effect?
Leave a comment below and let me know whether or not you think I spotted it correctly.
And you can discover more Mental Models by reading the books in the Charlie Munger Reading List.