People have their own opinions. We see no evidence of that. Sites do well in google, or not, based on the quality of their content. Linking to a good quality ring, one with a topic that complements your site, is in our opinion good for the users, hence would not be viewed negatively by search engines. Adding your site to 500 rings like some members do, probably not a great idea.
Creating a brand new ring with just your own site in the ring is probably not a help or hindrance. Getting a few good sites to join is probably a good ting. Letting any random site join, not so good.
It's pretty much the same thought process you use when building your site itself.