The Terror Of LinkedIn

The Terror Of LinkedIn

Happy Passover. I have a question: If I smear lamb’s blood on my router, will I stop getting “invitations to connect on LinkedIn?” Because I freaking hate them. It’s not that I hate LinkedIn – just the emails. More to the point: I hate that I hate the emails, which I think leverage a culture of fear to draw attention to the site.

About three years ago, many of my rich-ass friends lost their big-money jobs when their banks imploded, (banks!) proving that millions of old ladies were absolutely right about the merits of stuffing money under mattresses. Now several of them (the friends, not the old ladies) are embarking on second careers: teaching yoga, walking dogs, and “working with their hands” in the way that only people who have just had an entire belief system zapped out of existence ever could. It served as a wakeup call to me, too: If Bear Stearns can go out of business, how safe is my employment as “dude who writes about teh rad gadgetz”?

And then I left the warm and cozy, skyscrapered, old-media magazine world for a Blog. Smart move right? I think so, but let’s not get into it. Either, way, it doesn’t do anything for the generic fear of the 21st-Century Worker: that my particular jig will up and up itself, that someone will take a hard look at my industry and make an echoing statement like, wait, we pay money for that? And then I’ll be on the street. Writing about helmet cams and headphones on damp, cast-off cardboard in exchange for the change in your pocket. Hey brother, can you spare a dime? I can benchmark your notebook.

So, every morning, the LinkedIn messages pop into my inbox. (I’m not even signed up for the service!) And every day I check their little message boxes and ease my cursor upwards, where it hovers over the ‘report spam’ button. I sip my coffee. And then drag my finger across the touchpad, until the little arrow is on top of the little button that says “archive”. Click. Somewhere, in the not-so-far reaches of my mind, I am afraid that someday I’ll actually want to know about all these people who wanted to network with me.

It’s not that I don’t *network socially*. I do! I’m on Facebook (multiple profiles WHATUP); I love me some Twitter. I snap mad Instagrams, check in on Foursquare to the point where it annoys my girlfriend, talk music on Rdio… Hell, I even use Color, though I have no idea why. (There was this one time…) But LinkedIn fills me with images of résumés and ramen.

Does that sound paranoid? I’d argue that anyone who isn’t acutely aware of the current economic reality and cognisant of their need to be prepared for unemployment is the real nutter. It’s unfortunate, but we should all be prepared to live without an income for a while. I’m fine with that fact. I just don’t like to be reminded of it every day.

And that’s what the LinkedIn messages do. They pop up and tell me, Hey dude, you should really join our club, because some day you’re going to need our help. They terrorise with subtext.

I know that part of the function of a social network is to grow organically, to allow its users to bring other users in; I know that this is all LinkedIn is doing. I also know, from visiting the website on a regular basis and contemplating signing up, that LinkedIn is supposedly about more than finding a new job. But if you tell me the reason you joined is to “control your professional identity online”, or “exchange ideas”, I tell you “bullshit”. You joined to get a job. Maybe not now; maybe in the future. I’m willing to wager that you joined because you’re afraid of being broke or professionally unfulfilled or trapped in the same cubicle until your shirts show wear at the collars.

I’m not saying that LinkedIn shouldn’t exist. Actually, I think my visceral reaction is proof of how necessary the site is, and we should probably all join right now and “exchange ideas, information, and opportunities.” But I don’t want to think about it. I want to focus on the job I already have.

I just wish there was an opt-out clause that would stop me from getting the messages without having to mark them forever as inbox pariahs; like I said, I might need LinkedIn some day. Maybe there is a way to do that – maybe all I have to do is join, and click some checkbox that says ‘don’t send me any email’. But that sounds too much like a movie badguy to me: shows up quietly at my house under cover of darkness, sits in my office waiting. And then, first thing in the morning, we have a quiet conversation: ‘All you have to do is sign ze paper, Mr Brown, and zis vill all be ovah.”

Illustration by contributing illustrator Sam Spratt. Become a fan of his Facebook artist’s page and follow Sam on Twitter.