Why I Really Can’t Do LinkedIn Anymore
This morning, I sat waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Two things in my experience are great conduits for making either really bad rash decisions or really great ones. And this morning, I had both on my side.
Firstly, I was forced to be with my thoughts — as one is when spending 30 minutes in a sterile waiting room.
Secondly, I was woefully short on sleep which seems to always do a good job at taking away that mental filter that asks “would it really be a good idea to write about this, Daniel?!”.
I brought my Kindle along for the ride, but I was too groggy to flick through the book I’m reading. So instead, I did what I think a lot of us do when we can’t quite think of anything better to do or when we can’t summon the mental energy to do something like read a book or hold a conversation with a stranger. I began flicking mindless through my LinkedIn feed, Twitter feed, email, and Facebook.
And just like that, a few thoughts surfaced to mind:
- Why I am doing this!?!?
- I really, really detest LinkedIn. Or at least what it has become.
- I need to stop exposing myself to its toxicity every day.
- When I get home, I have to write a quick post getting this off my chest
The Home Of The Humble Brag
I signed up for LinkedIn pretty early in the game. I’m now on profile two, but I believe my true signup date was around the year 2008.
I instantly saw the appeal and use of a professionally-oriented social network. Actually I still do which is why I intend keeping my profile even if I don’t plan on posting to my feed or my company page!
LinkedIn promised to be a worldwide directory of business contacts, like an online global phone directory of sorts. Using LinkedIn, you could figure out who was the CxO at what company. You could add those you do business with and watch your high school friends climb the corporate ladder from afar.
And then …. the feed happened.
It’s my contention that the concept of a social feed, and of sharing updates, is the undoing of many otherwise functional and enjoyable social platforms.
Take Facebook, for example. I love Facebook groups. People often use them to help one another — which is awesome. Facebook statuses about your lunch or your latest fab vacation? Often a (fast) race to the bottom. Need I mention Instagram?
LinkedIn’s feed, to my mind, has been in a steady state of progressive mental rot for the past few years. I used to think that those humble-bragging, sharing pseudoinspirational posts or telling the world how wonderful their current or (I love this) past employer is were a small but vocal minority. I no longer believe that to be the case.
LinkedIn’s many noxious characteristics would take a while to fully enumerate — and I have to wrap up this post in time for dinner so I will skip over them. But if you’ve found this post, we’re probably on the same page about most of them.
One that I see all the time is the spreading of misinformation by self-appointed ‘gurus’ with blissfully ignorant followers who are only too happy to rant and rave about advice that is often simply bad.
It is not rare, on LinkedIn, to see eminently bad business advice dressed up in jargon-laden and pseudoinspirational language that goes relatively viral and receives hundreds of likes. In other instances simple truisms — your product should meet some consumer demand! — are greeted with the kind of awed, rapturous response that one might expect the discovery of electricity was.
Testimonials are a popular feature that simply add to the overall atmosphere of flaunting everything good about oneself in the most effusive way possible. There was a quaint time when one’s job references were handed to a prospective employer as a contact list on a piece of paper, shielded from the public eye (or that of one’s “network”). Thanks to the advent of LinkedIn that practice — which I self-defeatingly cling to — has been rendered as historic as MS-DOS.
Another common species is the mindless but pleasant sounding post.
Parsed grammatically, jargon stripped, one can often figure out that the post either said nothing or said something that was patently nonsensical. But in many LinkedIn users’ desperate (and eminently transparent) bid to look connected and knowledgeable (posting) and to inform their network that they are engaged and plugged in to other influencers (commenting) these posts often pass off as the real deal without anybody batting an eye.
Finally, there’s the idea that sharing what you’re passionate about with strangers is smart because it will lead to business. I post about my love of flags. A quirky connection is also a vexillologist. Boom — we can do business! This doesn’t sit well with me because I find it totally insincere. Sharing what you’re passionate about is wonderful — start a blog. Sharing it with a random corporate audience on the hope that you can leverage it to do business …. to me strikes of naked opportunism.
Call me a contrarian (I am) but I think it’s all phoney. And frankly, I think I’m happier neither seeing nor partaking in the game.
Does Everybody Actually Hate LinkedIn?
The aspect of LinkedIn which I find most comical is the fact that countless people like me appear to be scratching our heads and wondering whether we’re the only ones on the planet that find the average contents of its news feed utterly odious. Could we perhaps have been gaslighted by the corporate world’s collective adulation of a social network? Then there are those who — instead of allowing themselves to be driven insane, like me — delight in making fun of the often transparent ridiculousness of the network.
A tiny selection:
From a fellow Medium writer (one example of many):
I’m starting to hate LinkedIn
Every time I open the LinkedIn app on my phone, my feed contains the usual suspects — corporates promoting the good…
Several of my friends — and, of course cherished LinkedIn connections — have professed to me that, like me, they find LinkedIn to be toxic and depressing but go along with it anyway sharing the breed of “content” which seems to be most in vogue there at the moment (I call this content pseudoinspirational because, typically, it lacks any originality).
Increasingly, this content follows exactly the same formula, written in hurried two line paragraphs to convey a sense of frenetic energy while the author conveys some great insight. Replete with, and ending in, the mandatory hashtags:
** You’re only as good as your last job! **
Today, I ended my tenure at X. And what an amazing experience it has been. Y (make sure to tag) was simply the best boss ever. (Smiley emojis).
I’m sure that X is destined for paradigm-disrupting success, but my voyage takes me to Z who [boilerplate company tagline supplied by incoming HR].
This time I get to officially join the C Suite! I can’t believe I’ve come this far in five years and sometimes don’t think that I’m really worthy. (Humblebrag)
The path, though windy, has taught me some powerful lessons. Don’t give up on your dreams. You’re only as good as your last job and without the amazing guidance of X I surely couldn’t have got here. Keep dreaming and remember that everything is possible.
#careerpivot #loveX #loveY
Seeing a hubmlebrag squeezed in between two odes to current and incoming bosses and one stanza affirming well-trodden truisms is the norm on LinkedIn. Obvious questions lurk in the background (if X was so wonderful and you believe in its mission, why are you leaving?). But LinkedIn is not the place for answering difficult questions.
I would therefore summarize the situation like this:
Countless people realize that the pervasive culture of self-aggrandizement and falseness on LinkedIn is distasteful, highly irritating and the mental equivalent of a corporate landfill stuffed to the brim with inspiring messages and talk of impending blue skies. But people go along with it because they perceive it to be professionally expedient to do so. And today I thought: I personally think that life is too short for that.
(Afternote: People do share great content on LinkedIn. I realize that. This post is not directed at them).
The Content I Curate
This led me to my second thought.
We can all agree that the world is drowning in ‘content’. There’s — literally — too much of it out there to consume in an average human lifetime. We have reached content saturation on steroids.
With that in mind, my strategy, going forward, is to more carefully curate the content that I consume through the internet.
Just as I wouldn’t eat a plate of junk food for lunch (okay, who am I kidding) I shouldn’t subject myself to scrolling through 30 minutes of reading departing employees extolling the virtues of their former boss because it’s part of their strategy to look good.
On a network by network level, my abridged thoughts are currently something like this:
- LinkedIn: Good as an online Rolodex and for mapping out organizations. The feed, and statuses being shared there, have become too toxic to bother with.
- Twitter: Filled with many mundane trivialities and mental noise such as people’s opinions about political candidates and parties. One can obtain a worthwhile feed, but only after fairly careful curation.
- Facebook: Love Facebook groups. Like the idea of having profiles (like LinkedIn, a personal Rolodex). Hate just about everything else about it.
- Reddit: Reddit’s anonymity unfortunately creates a culture of pervasive nastiness and toxicity. However, there are friendly and wholesome subreddits. It’s actually my favorite social network in spite of its flaws.
- Quora: Lots of useful info here. Unfortunately lots of bot answers too.
The best investment of attention of all, in my opinion, remains non-fiction books. Particularly those that that were deemed worthy of publication by a publishing house (yes, self-publishing is great, but I believe it still matters).
To my mind, the signal to noise ratio of the LinkedIn feed is woefully low. It stimulates — in me and others — repeated feelings of professional inadequacy and resentment. I can use without that mental drain. And I think that other information channels provide better ROI in terms of insights and knowledge gleaned in returned for mental focus.
Time is valuable. LinkedIn is only a website. For all the accolades it accrues, I find that life is more pleasant without reading its feed.
I continue to stay in business without ever having really ‘got’ it. Actually, scratch that. I understand what LinkedIn is and roughly how the came works.
But I refuse to participate in it. If I’ve no option but to play the game, maybe I’m in the wrong area and I’ll go pick mangos in a field where being “connected” on LinkedIn isn’t a job requirement. But, until then, I will resist until the bitter end.