We make a lot of fuss is made these days about how terribly invasive social media platforms have become. There’s the proliferation of Fake News™ on Twitter, the obliteration of privacy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook, and the shallow and completely opaque marketing by Instagram “influencers”, all of which have corrupted the social media era.
You have to give these platforms credit, however. All of them, despite their flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of their user bases, keep their users happy, engaged, and coming back to their platforms regularly. That’s one thing you definitely can’t say about LinkedIn, a platform that brands itself as “the social media network for professionals”.
Nobody is ever excited to use LinkedIn. Changing profile pictures on Facebook or uploading a new Instagram story is fun, but people talk about updating their LinkedIn profile the way they talk about doing laundry. It’s a chore that’s often put off until absolutely necessary.
The phrase “a social media network for professionals” can almost be considered an oxymoron. While more casual social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook thrive on personality, LinkedIn does its very best to strip the personality right out of its users by grinding them down to a list of skills and work history. You might as well get rid of LinkedIn entirely and have a gigantic database of resumes. And no, a social media intern in charge of posting blogs on Facebook calling themselves a “Creative Organic Content Strategist” doesn’t count as personality.
The very little bit of personality that will appear on your LinkedIn feed is actually just one of two personalities. There’s the consummate professional who loves their job and industry, sharing the lessons they learn about being in the professional world. These lessons almost always boil down to things like “be yourself” or “don’t burn bridges” or my favorite, “when one door closes, another one opens.”
The other personality is the social media savvy CEO that posts about how well their startup company is doing and explaining what personality traits it takes to get to their position. Many of these C-suite professionals tend to leave out the part about how their legacy admission into that Ivy League school probably helped out a lot more than their sheer brilliance and their determination to get to the top.
In between ramblings from pseudo life coaches, you’re bound to be hit with a deluge of private messages from recruiters. A typical LinkedIn recruiter’s job is akin to casting a wide net and seeing which unlucky suckers end up in their grasps. Prepare to be lied to about things like salary and job requirements, ghosted after being promised an interview, or required to jump through an unnecessary amount of hoops just to get the name of an actual employer. Recruiters on LinkedIn don’t actually care about you, they care about filling as many positions as possible to make their numbers look good. They’re human salespeople, and just as sleazy as the caricature of a used car dealer.
What LinkedIn lacks more than any other social media network is authenticity. High-powered Instagram influencers might be peddling fake lifestyles backed by big corporate sponsorships, but your average user is just posting selfies, pictures of their pets, memes they stole from Facebook, and what they ate that day. I’m not saying that LinkedIn needs to start being flooded with funny memes to make it worthwhile (there are plenty of social media networks for that), but what it does need is to strip away the veneer of fake professionalism. Nobody is that happy to be working all the time. Hell, I’m secretly writing this article at my desk in the office right now.
What LinkedIn should focus on is the human element of being in the professional world. Highlight stories of what it’s like to be a working mother making minimum wage, or the power of REAL team building (no, buying bagels for the office doesn’t count). Showcase the difficulty of trying to get a job interview when you have a non-traditional name, or how it’s nearly impossible to hold a professional position when you have a criminal record. Show how important it is to have employers that care for their employees on a human level. If we put the humanity back into LinkedIn, it has the potential to be a place where the workers of the world can share a common ground and actually want to be engage with the platform. Until then, LinkedIn will continue to be the soulless, shallow pile of garbage it’s always been.