A professional social network sounds like a good business tool and a useful thing but the best-known entry in this market, LinkedIn, has a number of flawed and selfish premises that have led to it Winning, but not Succeeding. I mean that while they are clearly dominant, they are a failure as a social network.
1. LinkedIn-flation: Linked in tells you to be discriminating in adding people to your network because the resulting networks are supposed to be a tree of solid integrity and merit. At the same time, they are indiscriminate in throwing contacts at you, constantly encouraging you to expand your network. When a new person asks to join your network (typically with an invitation as impersonal as a bid in a game of Bridge) it doesn’t let you contact the person before accepting them. You literally cannot even say “where do I know you from?” until you have said, “this person is in my network”. Either that or you have to reject them outright. The upper limit of contacts you are allowed to have is 30,000.
2. Taste the Beige! There is no experiential reward for participating. Nobody enjoys being on LinkedIn. The payoff to Facebook is pleasurable or at least personal contact with others. The payoff of LinkedIn is that you are on LinkedIn. This is because LinkedIn is essentially fear based. You better be there if you don’t want to be overlooked when the big recruiter in the sky comes to check and see if you are a “self-starter with excellent organizational skills.” The value is purely in being findable in this database.
3. InHuman: Which leads us to the fact that everyone there is being flat and careful, creating an idealized portrait of themselves from a corporate point of view. This means that 70 percent of the content is pure methane in a cardboard cup. It is appropriate to the professional context yet dreary, flat and thin. It is the online equivalent of driving across Kansas.
4. Lousy Host: Because there is no joy or (experiential) profit in participating, and no sensible business model, LinkedIn has to jealously withhold information and limit access to the people it has aggressively gathered together for the purpose of sharing information. It’s like a host who has invited as many people as possible to a party and then tries to limit the guests from talking to each other unless they pay for the drinks at this party and next month’s party too.
5. InVasive: Finally, LinkedIn is so aggressive about recruiting people for these non-festivities that it makes the NSA look like the ACLU. Honestly, people, even if you don’t use the invite contacts feature, LinkedIn requires you to sign in to your email and accept membership and when you do they come along with you, into your email every time you have LinkedIn cookies in your browser. Yes, they check your email along with you, noting every single one and comparing addresses to people in their database. So if you have LinkedIn you will get messages like “This guy you exchanged a single email with 7 years ago has joined LinkedIn. Accept him to your network?“
6. It gets worse: Their new iPhone App actually channels ALL YOUR EMAILS COMING AND GOING, THROUGH THEIR SERVERS. This is appalling, This is insane! These are serious, even shocking violations of privacy! The implications for anyone in medical or legal fields should be a radioactive red flag! You could violate client privacy or HIPPA conditions without even knowing it. The import for anyone is deeply worrying.
But why? What could possibly justify these outrageous violations of trust? Why do they do things this way?
So that LinkedIn, the terrible party you are obligated to attend, can become more inevitable, a bigger ant pile, a greater Gasbag.
How to get the value, while fucking them over: I eventually rejoined but in a way that protected my privacy better. I created a new webmail address (yahoo, gmail, whatever) to use as my LinkedIn username. And I NEVER ever use it to communicate with anyone. Therefore even when they brazenly invade my email account there is nobody and nothing there for them gather up. I just reach out to the people I feel like reaching out to and keep a profile there for the odd case where it comes in handy.