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Don't know how to respond to that "how are you" message?

This week's column sparked an interesting and I was told "generational" debate about the question that was posed to us.

The question is about how to answer a "Hey, you" email through a social network. Our editor thought that not answering an email, via Facebook or LinkedIn, is just as rude as ignoring someone who asks you how you are in person.

He felt that our answer was being too harsh on this questioner, because he felt our younger generation doesn't have many manners as "old-schoolers". I think we do have manners, I just think we don't see this as a big of a deal. Personally? I think the "hey, How you are email" is the equivalent of when someone asks you in person -- most of the time, this is just a greeting. People don't really care how you are doing.

Clearly, people feel very strongly about this. Here's what we wrote:

A Poked reader we're calling ''Old School'' sent in this question after feeling a bit ignored online:

Am I wrong to expect that a person will reply back when I've e-mailed them or contacted them via LinkedIn just to say ''hi'' and see how they're doing? These are not strangers -- they're all people I've worked with in the past.

I know everyone is busy, but it takes a second to hit ''reply'' with one line thanking someone for their interest in your life. (And yes: their addresses are valid and they did receive my message.) Would I be justified in removing these people from my social networks?

Dear Old School,

We think it's admirable that you are reaching out to folks and you don't want something, but let's take a deep breath. After you're done, calculate how many connections you have on every online social network you're in.

People tend to have a hundred or more connections on sites like LinkedIn. On Facebook, the ''friend'' tallies can be much greater. Translation? With volume like that, it's a harsh but inevitable truth that there will be connections who don't care about you.

Now, that doesn't give people a reason to behave badly. Although we think you should treat people online as if you're face to face with them, the reality is, you're not face to face -- and that makes it easier to reject you.

If you want to touch bases with someone just to check in, offer them something. It's about what you bring to the conversation, even if it's just a compliment, like something you noticed on their profile about their life or work.

This is what we think about social media: You're not just communicating for the sake of communicating. You're communicating for a purpose. People have hundreds of connections on these networks, so you need to make it easy and worthy of a response.

Put yourself on the receiving end. How would you respond to someone you don't know well who said: ''Hey, how are things?'' We don't like responding to those kinds of messages, basically because they contain no content, no context, no inspiration that would elicit a worthwhile response. And in the vast world of too many e-mails, pokes and tweets, it's easy to get left behind.

Have you tried connecting with people in ways other than a private message? Comment on a project, their posted link, or in a group that you're both part of. In our minds, that makes a message more valuable, because it shows that you're paying attention to what's going on in their lives.

You also asked about whether it was appropriate to ''unfriend'' or remove a LinkedIn contact for ignoring you. We think, if it's bothering you that much, go ahead. But we would first ask ourselves: Have I been paying attention to what they actually do online, as in, actually networking with them? Have I been a good friend/connection to them?

What do you think?


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