Social Reciprocity


Note: I had originally scheduled this post for later this week, but I decided to post it today while the topic is actually being discussed in some fashion on Twitter. My goal was, originally, to ask those who read my writings to decide if they would like to link to me or not and to let me know why. While I still would like that to be the overall concept of this post, as well as having those interested in having me link to their works send me a request to look over their content and let them know why/why not, I thought it might be a good idea to remind everyone of a few basic concepts that should govern how we view such actions (and yes, I despise such tools as FriendorFollow because they only serve to, subtly, reinforce our notion that reciprocity is a standard and not a choice).


Ever since the introduction of the concept of "reciprocal link sharing" with bloggers, or "following/friending" others as it would be described with regards to social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, there has been underlying confusion as to what the process means or implies. Further confounding the issue is the inherent nature of people to want their work/profile/friendship to be reciprocated by those who submit such requests. There are some general guidelines one should keep in mind so as not to fall into the trap of feeling obliged to be on either side of such practices:


  • Do not assume that linking to a site will yield a reciprocal link.
  • Submitting a request for being linked from a site is the best approach, where the site author/admin can look over your content and choose (and hopefully explain) why they will or will not link back.

Social Networks

  • "Following" or "Friending" someone does not mean the person in question is obligated to do the same.
  • Again, if curious why someone does not then asking them why is the best approach.

Pretty simple, right? Apparently not. People seem to think reciprocity is an understood rule and forgetting that each person chooses whether or not to accept such actions based on a number of reasons, such as:

  • Content (especially an issue for blogs/bloggers).
  • Personal perception/choice (for instance, I may consider your Tweets annoying, uninteresting, or may simply have no compelling reason to follow you).
  • Privacy (one often overlooked, but I may or may not want someone I do not know personally viewing my Facebook profile for instance).

In short, it is my choice whether I follow/friend/link you or not. Generally I have very little reason not to, but I still reserve that right. If you choose to base whether you friend/follow/link someone due to their choice of reciprocating the action then, quite frankly, I take very little stock in your recommendations/friendship. It's not that I do not care, it is simply that I know I cannot look at your links and know that you actually recommend someone else's work (much less an issue with social networking, except those who simply friend anyone/everyone).