LinkedIn Is A Funny Old Place

No pretty pictures to ensure reader engagement. I’m afraid this requires good old-fashioned reading from top to tail. All typos and gibberish are mine.

I once heard of LinkedIn described as ‘Facebook for grown-ups’, which is very apt. Sure, it is all about the sharing of commercial and light academic knowledge but scratch the surface and there is little to separate it from Facebook.

I love the sharing element. I have a Facebook account as it keeps a closer link between me and my friends and family dotted around the world. We can chat, share pictures and experiences and indulge in a bit of banter and that is a Good Thing.

But Facebook is social and LinkedIn is business, though those lines are blurring by the day as Facebook pursues global domination. All the things Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the like are blamed for also hold true for LinkedIn. The pretenders are out there too. The ‘look at how amazing I am’ and ‘look at how clever and deep and educated I am’ people are there, e-strutting around preening themselves in front of others and setting unrealistic, unobtainable and unfair goals for the more credulous to aspire to. Just like the ‘proper’ social media sites do. My favourite LinkedIn profile is from this fellow, John. His truthfulness is refreshing.

However, my favourite LinkedIn bit of weirdness is reserved for the job posts. Face it: if someone is looking for a new job they may be moving from a position of strength but equally they may be in a crappy situation and perhaps a little bit vulnerable. The very least an employer could do is treat them with a modicum of decency. My experience is that if you get a confirmation email it is generic and tells you that you shouldn’t hold your breath. Also, signed with a terrible ‘kiss-off’ of ‘The Talent Management Group’ or something similar. How much effort is it to use names and be accountable by signing a name? The depersonalisation of the process speaks volumes about the sort of company it is and how they think of their staff.

Indeed, I wonder if there is a secret cross-industry code between recruiters that all job adverts should be written in a way that leaves the reader wondering what they actually want, whilst simultaneously sound as if mere mortals need not apply. Why have a two paragraph description when an eighteen paragraph one can be written? I harbour a suspicion that many job posts are just a means of harvesting CVs. For why?

I can only imagine that this is a device used by HR (Talent Management, Human Capital or what ever the current buzzword for Personnel is) to justify a drive for mediocrity and uniformity and enhance the size and intrusiveness of their role whilst simultaneously ensuring that the blame for any bad hire can be laid somewhere else.

Some of the more backward HR departments are often populated by people who fall for such unscientific malarkey as Myers-Briggs profiling or similar drivel. The advocates of these so-called tools are fully invested and will support them to the hilt. The fact remains that there is no real science behind them. They were and are just a management fad, flashier versions of a horoscope. Surround it with logos, get corporate buy-in (there is no direct correlation between seniority and [lack of?] gullibility), refer to it as a methodology, assure all comers that it is supported by ‘deep-dives’ into the data and so on, and best of all pay a lot for it and it then attains a mythical and unquestionable status. Hilarious really.

On candidate suitability, my favourite story is told by Rory Sutherland in his book The Wiki Man, because he was so terrible he was nearly fired until a more visionary boss channelled him in a suitable way. Now, he is far closer to the top of the heap than the bottom. I’ll bet he wasn’t hired by an HR bod who carefully vetted the application based against a set of impenetrable criteria.

Back to the more general weirdness of LinkedIn. I am far from guilt free as it is a place I have flirted with on and off for many years and taken the odd free month of premium and then cancelled. It has only ever succeeded in making me question whether or not I’d fit anywhere. If I use LinkedIn as my guide then my extensive and varied experiences seem to count for ought these days. And to be clear: by extensive and varied I mean it is almost unbelievable, even to me!

There is a list here of everything I have ever done, in a rough order. Bear in mind many of these were/are concurrent. I am not a major job hopper although it appears, even to me, as if I may be.

LinkedIn seems huge, it seems important and it seems unmissable. Yet, on reflection, no one has ever told me how they learned something life changing or won their dream job on the site. It is, like all Social Media, a data collection tool. I can only imagine that is why Microsoft bought it.

Do I want a role? Sure. Am I raging against the machine? I’d like to think I am not. However, I refuse to be a homogenised clone that has buffed and curated a LinkedIn profile to within an inch of credibility. I want to do work with meaning and with with interesting and intelligent people. That probably won’t come from LI, but you never know. Try me: What I don’t want is that my creativity and individualism are ground under the heel of thoughtless conformity.

Nothing Is Free

The media is alight with Facebook, Google, Amazon etc. Data, data, data. My data, my personal data, not ‘your’ data to have available for third parties like, say, Cambridge Analytica. There is a huge amount of shaming of the data collectors going on and some of it is just not accurate, nor correct.

There is a glaring issue here, so stop, take a deep-breath and unpack this a bit.

  • Present Currency

We are accustomed to exchanging money for goods and services. These days we do a lot of electronic transacting and when it came in (and credit cards too) it was the devil’s work. We were all going to be swindled, indebted and generally life would end as we know it. Some of my more socialist friends may already argue that that has happened. Not the fault of the method of money transmission though.

  • New Currency

There are two predominant forms of currency that have emerged from the connectivity given to us by the Internet. Crypto-currencies and Personal Information.

1. We can get our heads around the first as it is a new form of the old. We can gauge the value  and understand it because it is pegged against things we understand in language we are accustomed to.

2. Data as a form of payment , personal data to be precise, is a new thing entirely. The vast majority of which we’d be happy to share in a conversation. Where did you last shop, when, for how long, what did you spend, was it the first store you went into, did you intend to buy anything, have you gained weight, what did you pay with etc etc. A good research study would ask such things. A good conversationalist could probably winkle it out of you. If it is a conversation, then there is a slim chance you’d stick your hand out and say, “Now I’ve told you that, it’s £4.99.” Even studies give a flat fee regardless of how you answer.

  • Something for something

Everyone is comfortable with the idea of exchanging goods for services. Our labour for a paycheque, our hard-earned for some food. That sort of thing. You can’t go to the pub, order a pint and offer to tell the barman your reading habits in return. It has no value to them.  Google on the other hand? What a search engine. I say this coming from the days when Alta-Vista was considered good but required a lot of finagling. Now, in Chrome (the free browser) I just type my query in there. Where is Buxy, how do I make chipotle paste, when is the next train due and so on.

The hours and hours of my life that have been saved from mundanity, the paper saved, the brain space saved etc. However, may people do not put a price on their time. The things that Google and Facebook allow me to do without having to send them money in exchange just beggar belief.

This DOES NOT come free though. Land, salaries, server farms and the like cost old-fashioned real money. That doesn’t materialise out of thin air, these companies have an intrinsic value, reflected in their very high share prices and huge wealth because they have something. That something is you. As much about you as then can tell and the cleverest people to extract the maximum value from everything about you.

EDIT: This video is excellent and I have added it to the post.

  • In conclusion

No one forced you to join Facebook, no one forced you to use Google. There are ways around this if you feel that strongly. Tor browser, secure and untrackable email, cash under the mattress (better yet, go for gold and salt). Expect to pay for the privilege.

Criminals are criminals. Data firms are not automatically criminals. The real criminals want to get their hands on currency – cash, gold, your password, they don’t care – Whether it is swindling you out of a pension or using your reading habits (or lack thereof) to target you in an election. These days they only want your data if it is to get to the other things. Stop blanket-blaming the collectors and, instead, see who is being a criminal.

There is a quid pro quo for all the ‘free’ stuff on the Internet. It is you. You are not the customer, you are the product.

The data genie is well and truly out of the bottle: it won’t/can’t be stuffed back in. Think large-scale environmental disaster as you can’t wish it away or legislate it into not happening. It is done, so consider what you are getting, what you are paying and make the choice yourself, stop blaming other external forces. You chose to participate, and it is not without cost.