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The pervert and procrastinator’s guide to LinkedIn

Published October 26th, 2016 | Blog Series: Social Media Turds

Let’s not start by pretending that LinkedIn was ever a viable platform for professional business networking online. This is the internet, no such thing will ever really exist. It can’t for the same reason serious political discussion on any social network is completely ridiculous. Sure, we could earnestly discuss the importance of providing asylum to Syrian refugees but I’m just two clicks away from fan art depicting a pregnant Spongebob Squarepants married to Shrek.

I wasn’t given unrestricted access to the internet until my mid teens – which in retrospect was probably ill advised – and used it mostly for MSN, watching videos, pirating music and learning how to use Flash (when I wasn’t looking at porn). The internet was – and still mostly is – an inherently ridiculous place filled with deplorable people, disgusting images and unfiltered racism. Nowadays, largely thanks to the rise of social media, the only differences between then and now are less anonymity and more people.

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Facebook and Twitter operate in relatively similar ways – they’re about communication with familiar or like-minded people. Unless you’re some sort of lizard creature masquerading as human, your profile on either will probably reflect some aspect of who you are personally. LinkedIn is all about who you are professionally and is intended to cultivate business relationships between colleagues and business partners. This means you can do anything from create new relationships to propagating your very own group of back-scratching sycophants.

And this is just one of several reasons why LinkedIn is terrible.

Fundamentally, I think LinkedIn has a problem with how it prioritises content. Popular posts – as in those that accrue tens of thousands of likes and/or thousands of comments – generally fall into the following categories:

  • Management types posting faux-inspirational garbage
  • Maths problem
  • Work related satirical cartoon
  • Famous quote
  • Interesting work perks or benefits for staff
  • Photos of neatly arranged starting gifts for new hires

Excluding the last couple of points, this kind of inane trash is typically reserved for your Mum’s Facebook page – which you probably muted a long time ago – yet somehow it’s what LinkedIn’s algorithm and user base are desperate to show you.

The lack of formality on Facebook and Twitter allows for some elbow room when it comes to interesting content as well as depravity. Companies can let their hair down, post a few amusing tweets or Facebook comments and enjoy some positive PR in a lazy buzzfeed article. Individuals can post about inane nonsense that affects them and their lives and share content they find interesting or amusing. Sexual harassment and disgusting and offensive comments/tweets are a regular occurrence on both platforms and – while this isn’t exactly forgivable – they’re easily reported and when you’re asking people to be themselves it’s hardly surprising.

But LinkedIn doesn’t want you to be yourself, it wants you to be a professional. Which is possibly why I find sexual harassment on LinkedIn to be considerably more egregious.

Now I don’t mean to brag but – to my knowledge – I’ve never sexually harassed anyone (or endorsed them afterwards). While I’m a confrontational person, I’m confident that my angry criticism is gender neutral. I recall having a heated argument with a female colleague because she’d inadvertently agreed to something a client had been repeatedly pushing for despite it being completely impractical. This argument was unwarranted, I apologised and we’re still friends to this day. Then, when I was pulled up by a male superior, it was heavily implied that I should “know better” despite very little difference in age or experience level. Going by my previous involvement with this particular management team, I took this to mean that women were expected to get emotional or confrontational and I wasn’t.

This may be an unfair assessment but after observing many small insidious and occasional blatant examples of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s hard not make assumptions. From reacting to female employees criticism with more hostility, and repeated failed attempts to hit on women in company-wide email chains, to stories about managers shushing their employees mid meeting to check out passing female staff members – I understand that professional life can often be unfair and challenging for women. Unlike many of my female colleagues, this was something I actually had to learn. Thanks to naivety, I had once assumed sexual harassment wasn’t as prevalent as it actually is.

Research
My extensive research

So imagine spending your work day in an environment like this, only to check your phone on your commute home and find a message from some opportunistic moron with LinkedIn Premium talking about how you’re “still looking sexy”.

This may go some way towards explaining why – between July 2014 and May 2015 – LinkedIn’s female user base fluctuated between 50% and 35%. It also has the oldest user base when compared with other social networks and popular websites, with around 80% aged 35 or over. This age gap makes sense though – most people probably aren’t interested in professional networking until they’ve graduated or are just starting their careers, which is more likely to be in your early 20s. You could maybe argue that part of this problem comes down to the differences in attitude to what constitutes sexual harassment between generations but that doesn’t make it any more excusable.

There are some that argue that LinkedIn is “the new online dating site” and – while many of their arguments are pretty weak (“It shows who recently viewed your profile.”) – I have had friends and colleagues meet people through the service and go on dates. Even though one of the dates in question ended in an awkward handjob, the difference between how these people initiated contact and other more explicit examples is that there was a legitimate connection between both parties (friend of a friend, met previously, etc) and the opening message wasn’t some variation of “hey [name or term of endearment], nice [body part]”.

All of this is nothing new, others have covered this issue more comprehensively than I ever will, with most arguing that this sort of behaviour at worst discourages women from using LinkedIn altogether and at best creates an environment in which women have to try to discern genuine opportunity from sexual advances by subtext alone.

Combine that with endless sales patter occurring in an echo chamber and boring, repetitive content and you have the social media equivalent of a boring creepy man in a nice business suit sitting across from you on the bus, casually masturbating with one hand and trying to shake your hand with the other.

LinkedIn is trying to hold a black tie dinner in the middle of an orgy. It’s existence is a tacit denial of the way some people have and always will operate online and occasionally conduct themselves in the workplace – like disgusting animals.

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Steven Clark

by Steven Clark

Steven is a designer/developer and wannabe intellectual with an obsessive personality and too much spare time. Don’t follow him on Twitter.

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