I'm fairly new to italki. There are some great things about this site, but the social implications around 'add as friend' aren't clear to me. Lots of folks have direct messaging disabled. Support articles suggest directly introducing oneself though 'add as friend'. Maybe I'm overthinking this, but this use of 'friend' seems very wrong to me. Is that correct? How can 'friendship' exist between two people who don't even know each other? Do people approach others directly through 'add as friend'?
Mike, it seems wrong to me too.
Most of people who contact me do that not in order to offer language exchange. The same when I contact people.
It is commonly not messages intended for starting a long conversation: it is a comment on something, or it is something useful, or the sender asks me about something... Sometimes it develops into somethign 'bigger':) When a person has disabled PMs you won't send her/him a link he/she might be interested in.