I've recently joined (and created) a few ning social networks; mostly as a result of different projects I'm involved in. The networks are typically small; made up of people I know or people whose work I'm familiar with. In most cases we've been invited by a third party to collaborate.
Anyway, shortly after becoming part of these networks I started getting "friend requests" from different people on the network. Now in these small groups that we're working in, where some of us are meeting for the first time, working together on a larger project, it sort of makes sense to me that everyone is just being friendly and wants to be friends with everyone else. I like that. I like working in collegial environments.
Some of these invitations to friendship are from people I've never come across which is kind of flattering. The thing is, one of the invitations came from a person who, in their profile, said that they know nothing about the network they had joined. They just wanted to see what develops in the space. When I look at the profiles of some of the folks inviting me to friendship I see 500, 600+ friends in their personal network. 500 friends? Who has 500 friends? Maybe my definition of "friend" is too restrictive but, as a friend of mine pointed out the other day, these folks may just be building mailing lists. (Smells like spam.)
... are these meaningful, two-way partnerships, or are we lowly teachers being taken advantage of a little bit?