A Series of Complaints: LinkedIn

A Series of Complaints is a series of humor essays I started on my tumblr blog. I’ve formerly written complaints about “Basic Rich People”, “New Year’s Resolutions”, and “Boston Driving”.

Linked. In.

The mother of all my complaints.

What is LinkedIn? Is it a place to find a job? Is it social media? Is it a resume or is it an address book?

I rue the day when someone sat down and said ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had all these things at the same time’. I wonder if they were inspired by the person who invented the spork, and I wonder if they realize that it does multiple things poorly and not a single thing well.

The most frustrating thing about LinkedIn is that it is, admittedly, effective, although I believe this has more to do with a successful marketing campaign that garnered its massive user base than it has to do with the design of the site itself. LinkedIn is the only social media (if it can be called that?) I truly hate, and it’s efficacy makes it worse; the fact that I have found opportunities there means I cannot delete it from my life or delete my life from it without financial consequences.

LinkedIn is one of the most inauthentic places on the internet — even more so than Instagram. A friend’s self-promotion on Instagram allows me to still pen a funny, snarky comment or inside joke that I can winkingly leave behind. A friend’s LinkedIn self-promotion feels like hearing their voice through a megaphone from a thousand feet beneath the ocean and then broadcast on static-filled radio waves. The result is a cringey, monstrous version of their normal selves, one that I am not sure is truly them, or worse, I fear really is truly them.

LinkedIn is the only website I use at high speed, responding quickly to a message from a recruiter so I can close the app or browser as soon as possible, before reading anything on the newsfeed.

LinkedIn embodies a nebulous state between our business selves and our personal selves. It is the shining example of everything wrong with American work culture right now. Business is and must be personal. Work is and must be life. LinkedIn reminds you that, try as you might, there is no balance or separation anymore; that was a pipe dream of bygone generations. The unions have died, and student debt has skyrocketed even as education is no longer a guarantee of success. Therefore, the only solution is relentless engaging and posting and polishing one’s self image as an upstanding companyman (gendered intentionally), posturing like a flower to attract the ever elusive butterfly, employment.

I wish LinkedIn simply owned up to what it is, the way job sites like Indeed or Zip Recruiter or Glassdoor do. Indeed says, I know I’m old and dysfunctional but I have the masses on my side. Glassdoor, with its clean interface says, I may be occasionally buggy but I’m here to give you the information you need. Zip Recruiter, which has a design I actually quite like, says, I know you hate that society is like this, but I will make the search for a livelihood as painless as I can. My favorite, unfortunately lesser-known site, Ripple Match, is like the friend who pats you on the back and states platitudes which don’t help much but do make you feel better (it only contacts you when there’s a potential match with a company, and you don’t have to even apply to anything).

LinkedIn, though, is upsetting and sadistic and conniving. I will trap you here, says LinkedIn, in my never-ending hellscape of a design, in my blue-gray, aggressively corporate color scheme. The good-news-only effect is severe on LinkedIn — there are potentially financial consequences for talking about mistakes or struggles or missteps, unless you end on a sufficiently high note explaining how you overcame the difficulty. There are legal reasons not to tell the truth, or at least not all of it. This inauthenticity is embraced, fully succumbed to, for the sake of so many careers. And so, everyone is humbled, proud, privileged or honored. No one is depressed or frustrated or unfulfilled, a clear sign that it must not be real.

I hate LinkedIn just as I hate people who simply see me as a cog in their “network” rather than as a human being. Listen, I don’t mind doing you a career or school-related favor. I’m happy to “connect you over email” or refer you to a job or do anything that requires up to 20 minutes of my time in the form of remote work, maybe up to an hour if we were once somewhat close or I particularly like you. You may dispense with the formalities, such as “how are you” — so long as we knew and liked each other once before, the memory of your acquaintance is more than enough for me; therefore please just get to the point. I hate most of all people that drag this out — asking me about my day, my family, and a million other irrelevant conversation topics when I am fully aware that they couldn’t care less about me and what they really want is to ask me for a favor I’m probably unwilling to provide, and therefore no, I’m sorry, I can’t. I might be part of your “network”, but clearly, we are not friends, and this has further soured our relationship.

“sorry to this man” — we are not friends.

LinkedIn is like having that interaction over and over again, with so many formerly indifferent classmates who have recently discovered I might be useful to them. LinkedIn is where all my faith in the goodness of humanity goes to die. LinkedIn reminds me that the free market does not necessarily guarantee the best product for consumers — otherwise, friendlier and better sites might be more prominent. Or, it could be worse — that everyone except me actually does prefer this empty, blue-gray tundra, prefers to spout their achievements and hide their failures and ignore the downtrodden, unless they can be turned into some grotesque form of inspiration-porn…

LinkedIn is a website from hell.

MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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