LinkedIn vs. Reality

I quit Facebook in ~2018 and Instagram in ~2020. I ultimately found what I was receiving from these apps vs. what it was costing me to be a net negative trade off. It was easier to leave Facebook. By 2018, my news feed was mostly weird political commentary from people I hadn’t spoken to since Highschool. Instagram, on the other hand, was more challenging. What did it for me was going down a 45-minute rabbit hole on a Toronto Chef’s profile and finding myself having an imaginary argument with them over their content. Once I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole, I realized I was sitting in my living room legitimately pissed off at some person I’ve never met who doesn’t know I exist. That felt pathetic enough to motivate me to delete the app. At the time, I decided if I really missed it after 30 days, I’d re-download it. And I didn’t.

With Instagram and Facebook gone, that left LinkedIn as my last remaining social media vice. LinkedIn has always been billed as the ‘Professional network’ and as a result, receives a somewhat morally superior treatment; we don’t typically speak about LinkedIn addiction in the same vein we might Instagram or Tik Tok. But over the last decade, LinkedIn has transformed itself from a job site to a comprehensive professional social media network. With this transformation, there’s been a surge in non-hiring related information: lots of professional learnings, stories of success and failure, and general commentary around topical professional subjects (e.g., in-office vs. home, ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’, etc.).

As a professional focused network, you might expect the content to exhibit less of the “distorted reality” phenomenon plaguing Instagram (i.e., people solely highlighting their best and proudest moments to create an exclusively positive/happy/beautiful image). I’ve found that to be only partially true. Over time, there seems to be more of the themes you see on other social media platforms: an influx and rise of influencers, stories that are hyperbolic in nature, and lots of distorted reality.

It’s easy to get caught up in other people or company’s portrayed successes and play the comparison game. I try to remind myself that often the reality of all situations you see on Social Media – including LinkedIn – are probably not as good or as bad as they are presented. A few interesting examples of topics I’ve seen on LinkedIn, which present an overly positive or negative image relative to reality:

  • LinkedIn: “Zoom CEO sets standard among Public company CEOs by reducing salary to $1 following mass layoffs.”
  • Reality: Zoom CEO reduces salary to $1, 12 months after selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock.
  • LinkedIn: “We’re so proud to be among the fastest growing companies!”
  • Reality: We invested massively in growth in the last 24 months. This may or may not be sustainable and to accommodate a much more challenging investment environment, we may have to consider a layoff in the next six months.
  • LinkedIn: “We’ve been awarded a Great Place to Work designation, again!”
  • Reality: We paid a for-profit enterprise $3,500 for a Great Place to Work designation. We may have an amazing culture, but you’ll need more information to validate that.
  • LinkedIn: “It’s 2023 and remote office culture is officially dead. Back to the office!”
  • Reality: Some companies will return to the office and thrive. Some companies will preserve their remote/distributed working environment and thrive. Building a great culture requires intentionality regardless of a physical location (or lack thereof).  

There is, in fact, lots of high quality content and I’ve learned a decent amount through LinkedIn over the years. Nonetheless, while LinkedIn may position itself in a slightly different category as other mainstream consumer social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok), it’s helpful to keep in mind it possesses many of the same qualities (good and bad).