LinkedIn is the worst

Even LinkedIn’s slogan, “Connect to opportunity”, is nauseating. But it’s now worth so much that if everybody in Australia tipped in $1000, we’d still be $10 billion short.

If you haven’t used LinkedIn, imagine Facebook if every user had their boss looking over their shoulder the entire time, so that instead of sharing amusing distractions, they instead raved about their passion for generating shareholder value.

LinkedIn is like a school reunion with only the people you didn’t want to keep in touch with, boasting about their career accomplishments to try and make you feel inferior. It reads like the fake employee testimonials in a recruiting brochure.

Today I logged into my LinkedIn account to try and understand how it can possibly be worth all that money. The site was up to its usual irritating tricks – before I got to the feed that displayed my contacts’ most recent workplace ‘accomplishments’, it served up the usual series of nag screens, demanding I tell it what my interests are, then insisting that I add people I would gladly expunge permanently from my life, then asked me to grant it total access to my email account so it could hunt down more of them.

And then it demanded I buy a premium account!

I’m told that LinkedIn is handy for “networking”, which I think means strategically accumulating faux-friends. And if you’re looking for work, it’s supposed to be invaluable. Recruiters apparently comb its listings looking for talent to prise away from the current jobs in which everyone claims they’re doing so well. (I can’t attest to this, never having been offered so much as a floor-scrubbing role on LinkedIn.)

Having a work-based social network makes some degree of sense when our contacts change their work email addresses with every new role, so there’s definitely a role for a digital Rolodex out there. And it’s true that we are a different version of ourselves at the office from what we are at home, and the division is probably a useful thing.

What’s more, the site certainly seems to be popular – most of the people I know seem to have LinkedIn accounts. But I wonder how often they use it. My feed rarely contains anything worth clicking on. Instead, there are links to unengaging webinars, articles about the content strategies of companies whose content I’ve no interest in consuming, and above all, humblebrags

Whereas Facebook unerringly knows me to a frightening degree, the top article that LinkedIn’s algorithm served up for me had the headline “Aurecon’s Giam Swiegers brings Big Four thinking to engineering”. I’ve never heard of Aurecon, Giam Swiegers or the Big Four, and all I know about engineering is that I don’t know anything about it, and don’t especially care to know more.

I’m willing to believe there are people out there that find LinkedIn’s offering less tedious than I do, but I very much doubt that there are enough of them to justify a US$26 billion valuation.

What’s particularly galling about the inflated value of social media sites like LinkedIn is what those numbers mean for traditional media. As Media Watch pointed out this week, they’re devouring the ad revenue that once went to media organisations that pay people to produce quality content. Instead, social sites cash in on the content that we users produce for free.

You could probably buy most of the major news publications in the English-speaking world for $26 billion these days. Sadly, though, our economy values the lily-gilding of LinkedIn’s corporate narcissists more than the hard-won facts and informed analysis offered by traditional media.

I can understand why Microsoft bought LinkedIn. It produces the software that still powers most businesses, but free business applications produced by Google and Apple are cutting into its profits. If they can integrate LinkedIn into their increasingly cloud-based Office suite, they may be able to milk healthy profits from the corporate sector for a while yet before the cloud wipes out the market for expensive productivity apps.

But when I log onto Twitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn, the most popular things being shared are content from news websites. When they’re dead and gone, will we be left with a world in which the only content consists of press releases and cat videos?

Yes, we definitely will, so I’m going to have to grit my teeth and embrace LinkedIn. “Writer” means nothing in that environment, so I’m going to rebrand myself an “Executive Content Generation Specialist”. Would you mind logging on and endorsing my “Content Strategy” skills? In return, I’ll gladly give a thumbs up to whatever you pretend you do.