DEAR CAROLYN: New neighbors recently moved in with kids close in age to ours. The wife invited my kids and me over to play, but we hung out just the one time. I Googled the wife and discovered her mom is a prominent business person. I texted her asking if she could connect me with her mom because I'm in the same field. She said her mom was busy but she would pass along my contact information. I haven't heard from her mom, nor have I hung out with her since. When I see her around, she doesn't seem as friendly. Did I overstep? How do I recover from a Google faux pas?
NOSY NEIGHBOR: Your mistake wasn't about being nosy; Google was only the platform for the faux pas.
Your attempt to get to the mom through your neighbor was ungracious and grabby — and would have been so even if you had heard about the mother through word-of-mouth. So that was the faux-pas: Your new neighbor made an overture of friendship, and you thanked her by trying to use her to advance your career! You basically elbowed aside her value as a person and beelined for her value to your paycheck.
I would say to apologize to her, but that won't accomplish much if you don't grasp the fundamental rudeness of what you did.
It would have been similar, by the way, arguably worse, if you had sat on your knowledge of the mom until you had befriended this neighbor, and only then asked her to connect to the mom. It's all just using. Using is not OK.
The only respectful course was to spend time with your neighbor (or not) based solely on the quality of her companionship. Any networking would then be a nice bonus IF your friend made the connection and made the offer herself.
Do still apologize, regardless. It'll just mean a lot more if you understand why.
RE: NOSY: I am a mom and a pretty successful academic and run a center at my university, and I've had more than one parent Google me and all the sudden email and ask for "advice" for their child applying here; whether I know of any jobs at the U; letters of rec for their kids (!) or themselves (!) — and the thing that creeps me out is that they Googled me. Ew. Feels stalkerish, and weird from people with whom I'm not terribly close.
GOOGLED: Occupational hazard, perhaps, but I don't care about being Googled, as long as people don't misuse the information. So thanks for the counter. (Now can u get my kidz into skool pleez?)
The Google really bothers you more than being asked these terrible favors?
RE: NOSY: There's a great satire piece in The New Yorker about this (bit.ly/MakesMeItch). I work in a difficult field to get into, and a lot of students from my former graduate school seem to expect me to help them get a job just because I went there 10 years ago. Please, people, keep in mind your networkee is a human being, not your personal wormhole to a better life.
NETWORKEE: I do not have a personal wormhole to a better life, and I am vexed.