Lately on LinkedIn I’m seeing loads of posts complaining about people trying to connect with others they’ve never met. Some people seem downright angry when people they don’t know send them invitations. I’ve always found this sort of weird – isn’t the whole point of LinkedIn to connect with people you’d otherwise never get the chance to meet?

But no. According to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, I’m doing it all wrong. Apparently LinkedIn is a “closed network,” and I should be vetting each and every request I get so that I can feel comfortable introducing them to others in my network.

Um, what?

Here’s the thing: I already have a closed network. It’s called Real Life, and it works fabulously well.

Sure, none of my close friends or colleagues can snoop through my Real Life Contact List to see if I’m connected to people or companies they want to know, but guess what? If they tell me what they need and who might help them get it, I can inventory my network and put them in touch with people they should know.

In my world, LinkedIn isn’t just an “introduction tool”, but rather provides the opportunity to get to know people who would otherwise be strangers, people who probably have different perspectives on work and life than my inner circle and who therefore can stretch my thinking in ways my close network can’t really do. I’ve got plenty of strong ties, but LinkedIn helps me build the weak ties that can be enormously helpful in my personal and professional development.

What about you? Do you enjoy connecting with people you don’t know personally? Do you vet each and every invitation before accepting? I’d love to know how you’re using LinkedIn.

Every person is a new door to a different world. – Unknown