LinkedIn — A Confederacy of Frauds

LinkedIn is ‘the world’s largest professional network’. They have over 720 million members, and if you want a job in the corporate world, or indeed most office-based environments, you need some kind of presence on it.

For many, their LinkedIn journey would have started on a Monday morning, probably in January or February when, after some kind of skin-crawling experience with their boss, or a particularly miserable meeting, they were led there in an attempt to find a less horrible job.

LinkedIn is first and foremost, a job site. That’s why people are on there. But it has diversified and beefed itself up to become a ‘network’ where companies and individuals can connect, share insights, news, or simply stay in touch with colleagues (without letting them into their far more revealing Facebook or Twitter activity).

Predictably, as the big boys of social media leaned further into the territory of virtue signalling and push button hashtag activism, so the corporate world has found its version on LinkedIn.

The difference with the LinkedIn experience is, it’s all being done in front of current or future employers or colleagues, and without anonymity. And so, the usual rules of virtue signalling have an extra dollop of corporate creaminess, a Soviet noticeboard, where every word needs to look like it benefits your job and the greater good of corporate life.

Organisations and companies go all out to broadcast their latest initiative from HR while planning huge redundancies on the downlow (one friend told me recently how at a video call to the entire team, the management of his company announced they would be making huge cuts to the workforce, and then handed over to HR who finished the session with a 15 minute talk about Black History Month).

There are wooden ‘to camera’ videos featuring a gaggle of smiling employees, or ‘fun’ adverts about how it’s fantastic and like a family at a company that dumped harmful nature-destroying chemicals into a lake a few years ago and got caught.

It’s also a safe space for individuals to tell us all how they now understand x or y ‘social issue’ and how they somehow use it in their job to make software that helps with your taxes. Quiet on social media censorship, or digital privacy violations, one suspects that many of the most active people are the sort who would have signed that nasty little letter to bully Suzanne Moore out of The Guardian.

These days companies have a few go-to subjects to wax lyrical about. Diversity is particularly ‘top of mind’ with every CEO apparently, as well as claiming that ‘work life balance’ is crucial, which is about as believable as hobbits.

Hilariously, so is mental health. I can confidently say I have come across more stressed out, upset and sobbing people through and because of work, than that at any funeral I’ve attended. Many workplaces have some kind of ‘Wellbeing’ element to their organisation, providing a number you can call. Or you can always talk to HR. But anyone who’s worked in the corporate world will tell you that, speaking to HR about your problems (particularly if it’s about some toxic senior member of staff) is like speaking to the Stasi about Stalin.

HR themselves have rebranded as things like ‘Talent Management’, and create job applications that take days to complete because of the endless diversity, ethnicity, and sexuality forms they now include.

“Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking”

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

On LinkedIn there will usually be someone telling their ‘network’ how proud they are to have delivered a project that removes mercury fillings from robot crows or something, ‘but it’s a team effort and I was lucky enough to work with a group of people who are blah blah blah team team creativity blah blah innovative blah blah #team’.

Just like other social media, there are those who seize the audience to shamelessly promote themselves and what a great person they are. But all with some heavy-handed crowbarring of whatever trait it is they want us to think they have.

It’s their opportunity to run their mouth, so long as you can bring it back to work. And because it’s all done ‘in front of the boss’, it’s painstakingly curated and crafted. ‘I’m doing Movember and blah blah give something back blah blah blah that’s why I work for a global corporate behemoth that is probably responsible for the misery of thousands of people #positivity #mentalhealth #marketing #hailsatan’.

Or something creepy informing us how we should speak to people, telling us that ‘as a society’ we all need to ‘stop and think’ — and on and on it goes. Advice on how to be a human from people who communicate like the computer in War Games.

Everyone’s ‘Owning it’ on LinkedIn. If not, they’re ‘Smashing it’. It sounds exhausting, but it’s all typed by washed out dreary faces.

One particularly typical individual, regaled all with a story about how he was talking to his kids about something and they ‘shot him some wisdom’. This alleged parent then turned this into, ‘A wonderful lesson in life and business. Listen, learn, and know your customer.’ Followed by loads of hashtags about marketing and what have you.

If any of that was true, it’s hard to tell what’s more offensive. Is it the thought of him sitting half-listening to his kids, while calculating that this will make a great LinkedIn post, or is it that he perhaps views his kids as customers?

Indeed, particularly at the moment, there is a rise in parents using their kids as props in self-promotion on LinkedIn, as with other social media. Someone really should write a book about this…!

And then there are the life coaches. Dear God, the life coaches.

A horde who decided that, despite or perhaps because of, an apparent lack of self-awareness, they could make some cash by providing half-arsed, barely decipherable advice to people with too much money. They busily post inspirational images of beaches, or of them looking into the distance with the determination of a hamster, gabbling on about ‘wellness’ and fatuous wankery like ‘inner success equals outer success’.

One of the most insidious and revealing things about LinkedIn is that it actually tells you how to reply to messages. It will provide you with handy suggestions such as ‘Thanks’, ‘No problem’, ‘How’s everything?’, ‘lol’ or a thumbs up emoji.

“I was made redundant yesterday.”

“Lol. Thumbs up emoji!”

LinkedIn is dishonest and fundamentally compromised. Noticeably absent is any criticism of big tech, social media, and especially any of the FANG gang (Facebook — Amazon, Netflix, Google) because well, you might want to work for them one day!

And on the flip side, there’s a distinct lack of attention paid to small businesses (unless it’s someone’s new start up consultancy they’ve named ‘Smashing It’ or ‘Tabogan’ or some other twaddle). It’s friendly to global organisations, and quiet as a church mouse with locked-in syndrome when it comes to anything that might point out corporate misbehaving.

In a world where questioning anything, unless it’s around one of the mandated orthodoxies, and in the agreed manner, is often career suicide, LinkedIn behaves like the temple of a corporate cult, with millions of glassy-eyed, compliant fanatics, reciting the mendacious and hollow scriptures back to the throng.

The rampant hypocrisy and business humblebragging is obnoxious. There’s nothing wrong with making money or having a good job, but let’s not pretend your silly little app is curing bone cancer in kids.

Funnily enough, those people don’t seem to behave in that way.

Tom James

Buy Tom James’ book Your Children Are Boring here on paperback and kindle in the UK, US and worldwide.

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Another man with opinions. Hooray! Author of the book Your Children Are Boring or How Modern Parents Ruin Everything.

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Tom James

Tom James

Another man with opinions. Hooray! Author of the book Your Children Are Boring or How Modern Parents Ruin Everything.

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