Bill Lise

Where Microsoft's LinkedIn is Headed (or Has Already Arrived)

by Bill Lise

(Published June 22, 2022)

Day-by-day LinkedIn looks more like Facebook than what was probably envisioned for the platform (at least before Microsoft took it over). The resemblances are pronounced.

I had a LinkedIn account years ago and got very little from the account. Being a working professional Japanese-to-English translator, I was not there to look for a job, of course, but I had thought that there was some value in at least having an account. There was no perceived value that I enjoyed from that experience.

Just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, more than ten years after I trashed my first LinkedIn account, I started another account. I must say that my “LinkedIn experience” this time around has been qualitatively quite different, and it is even less useful than before. But it has shown me what has happened to the platform, perhaps in spite of—although perhaps because of—Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn since late 2016.

I have fewer than 60 connections. Because almost all of them are existing or recent past clients, I don’t need a LinkedIn account to interact with them. My connection list also includes a small number of colleague translators who I added in moments of weakness.

Polarization of Accounts

What strikes me most about the new LinkedIn is not only its growing resemblance to other social media platforms such as Facebook, but also a prominent polarization between two distinct classes of accounts.

On the one hand, there are established professionals, including some of my attorney clients. Many of the posts from those accounts congratulate people in their organization or other professional acquaintances on some achievement. I strongly suspect that some of these accounts are not operated by the person bearing the name of the account, but rather by an assistant in their firm. I guess there is nothing wrong with that; politicians and celebrities do it all the time.

But the notes of congratulation are rather formulaic. People are proud and excited to announce that so-and-so was just promoted. They are excited and proud to announce that so-and-so just made partner. They are thrilled to announce that, well you get the idea. There is a template lurking in at least the minds of these serial congratulators.

The Normalization of Self-congratulation

Even worse (and sillier) than the above are the countless people who congratulate themselves on their own achievements, saying they are proud, excited, honored—or whatever the template tells them to say—that they did this or that. Some of the people appear to be proud that they are proud or excited that they are excited. In that sense, they appear to be talking to themselves; the Little Engine telling itself that it could. This self-suggestion might be effective for the individual, but I don’t believe it is convincing to someone bombarded with dozens of these self-congratulations every day.

Perhaps the most revealing type of post comes from people who are not proud of some specific achievement or event, but rather just gush about all the wonderful qualities they have. They proclaim that they are full of energy, love a tough challenge, and love interacting with people. This is redolent of desperation, but perhaps some people haven’t figured that out.

Connection Collecting

A good number of people (including some of my connections) have more than 500 connections in their network. I sometimes even get notifications of how many connections they have made this week. Who cares? Certainly not me. Some people obviously collect connections indiscriminately. I got two requests for connection this morning from people to whom I am totally irrelevant, other than as an increment of one to their connection count.

The Ostensible Reason for LinkedIn

Yes, LinkedIn is a place where people go to look for jobs and recruiters lurk to look for people. For many of the former, fake it until you make it appears to be the received wisdom and their operating paradigm, but it leads people to say the phoniest of things.

Phony Titles

A surprising number of people with LinkedIn accounts have job titles (mostly self-applied) that defy understanding and that you will be hard put to find on any of the business cards you have collected in the real world. If George Carlin were still around, these titles would be great fodder for his pretension-blasting howitzer. Naturally, these silly job titles are mixed in with the countless people calling themselves consultants and coaches, although those two titles seem to be on a downturn, perhaps because enough people have realized that the shine has worn off of those titles.

Phony Coaching

Not coaching that is phony but coaching on how to succeed at being a phony. This often comes in the form of targeted ads, some from LinkedIn itself, and some that are for products and services promising to turn you into an influencer (no thank you) or to earn you thousands of followers, on LinkedIn or even fluffier corners of the social media world. These ads promise to make you look like something you are not. Again, no thank you. LinkedIn, even more than other social media platforms not purporting to be business-oriented, has turned into a breeding ground for phonies and an ad space for people making their living from people who wish to project a phony persona.

All of this is just “not me,” but I don’t have any immediate plan to trash my LinkedIn account. Watching the self-congratulatory posts is sometimes an interesting diversion from the real world, in which doing, not boasting, is a more effective approach.