With Great Social Capital

Earlier this year, at the Open Source Community Africa Festival, I gave a talk about Social currency, it's importance and the kind of impact it can have on your network and subsequently, your career.

In this talk, I highlighted most especially that regardless of public noise, the people you've worked or interacted with would continue to have an impact on your career growth and being able to speak for you. I shared this talk recently on YouTube.

A while back, Prosper wrote an article about Who is speaking on your behalf?, where he also highlighted the importance of other people being able to weigh in to have an impact on your career.

These content and many more like it have covered to an extent, how one can benefit personally from making the right connections, but in a growing ecosystem like ours, we haven't quite fully tapped into how it can be negatively exploited.

This story started for me when I noticed a profile that started popping up on my timeline that was engaging with my mutuals. I was fascinated because "how have I never met or heard of this person that somehow is friends with majority of my mutuals?". I took a look and the profile was pretty good - I was impressed.

I joined a Twitter space one time where people were shooting friendship shots and I seized the opportunity to satisfy my curiousity. We had a Google meet chat where I explained how my curiousity led me to want to know more about him. In line with the majority, I did not smell any BS nor did I ask any particularly probing questions.

But the truth is, for someone like me who came into tech without knowing anyone previously, this was the way we got to meet more people especially with the recent pandemic. Friends of friends or mutuals of mutuals. I'm almost sure there's an official term or principle that defines the formation of these kinds of relationships - but the result of this is the social capital each person wields.

However, I was absolutely shook when I heard the news on social media only to find out that the people I saw him as mutuals with also started interacting with him because they saw him as mutuals of others, so where did the chain begin?

I contributed to this as well when I shared a tweet about a good conversation after the friendship shot and all I basically did was place another stamp of approval or validity as more people responded also wanting to meet him. One way or the other, I had contributed to the deception without even knowing it.

The people who got close to him, whose social capital he leveraged, provided a stamp of approval for him without realizing it. When they started picking up these red flags however, they stepped back. But because they didn't want to be seen as a hater, they said nothing and everyone else was still buying it because of the ground work already laid.

The whole purpose of this article is to reflect on how this image laundering happened and how we can prevent similar cases and possibly save people from falling victim to it going forward. Our community is moving towards even more transparency and people who have established a reasonable level of social capital, have to understand that they indirectly endorse people that seem associated with them as well. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, they also have to take the social responsibility of pointing it out as early as possible despite how tricky it may look.

I don't know what exactly the best process to this is while ensuring we don't enable gatekeepers, but if it's looking too good to be true, perhaps it isn't true.

I'm not one to go around doubting people by default, but as a member of the community as well, I'll try my best to trust, but also verify.