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LinkedIn: A social network fit for a police state

LinkedIn: A social network fit for a police state

Sep 28, 2011

After a tiring day of work, have you ever trudged home, collapsed into your comfy chair, stuck a hand (or two) down the ole’ belt and pondered about the Soviet Union? Naturally, the answer can only be yes. Lately, during this holiest of ceremonies, I’ve been thinking how different our world would be today if the USSR hadn’t imploded. Imagine if you will that Gorbachev hadn’t been such a progressive leader (ie. not bat-shit crazy like every other Soviet ruler), and the iron fist of the Politburo still struck as it had in the years before Glasnost and Perestroika, would our world be as connected as it is today?

I had a dream…

Well, during a particularly Vivid dream, right before I was cruelly seduced by a gaggle of sex (and nutrient) starved Russian models, I caught a glimpse of such a world. Like Frodo looking into the mirror of that elf-bitch Galadriel, I saw some crazy shit!

"I asked for a lock of her golden hair... she gave me 3" -Gimli

But  when I awoke, much like you, I promptly forgot the dream as my groggy eyes locked onto Melissa Lee on my TV. But when I popped open my Macbook (sorry SteveB, i sold out a long time ago), it all came rushing back with one look at an open LinkedIn window.


LinkedIn: A place for Comrades

Meet LinkedIn: A social network for a police state…

That was it! I had seen LinkedIn in my dream, except it was in the guise of Facebook, a Facebook for a police state like the Soviet Union. (you could almost say: in Soviet Russia, LinkedIn is the real Facebook)

LinkedIn may have 100 million users, but from what I see, it has all the joy of the Pyongyang Gay Pride Festival and the bustle of a Soviet-era grocery store. When I look at my LinkedIn news feed  its silence is only ever broken by solemn system announcements proclaiming “X is now connected to Y”, or “X has joined <insert industry group> here”. Very rarely do I  see a genuine update, or heaven forbid: a casual tweet on my feed.

There is a unspoken code when it comes to what people post and do not post to LinkedIn versus Facebook (I’m not including G+, just to spite G+ people) . Its as if the KGB were watching, ready to snuff out anyone’s professional life if they dare to break from the monotonous tones, empty platitudes, and generic specifities that mark the LinkedIn experience.

LinkedIn Recommendations – Like they were pulled from the  latest issue of Izvestia:

"When in doubt prime the pump, sons"

Don’t believe me? Just look at any of the recommendations that people might have in your network. When I read through these testimonials, I sometimes forget I am reading the profiles of mere mortals. On more than one occasion I have had visions of someone with the brain of John Maynard Keynes, crossed with the charm of Bill Clinton and rounded out with the girth of Lexxxington Steele.  Sometimes when I read these recommendations, I wonder if somewhere along the way I stepped into a time machine (disguised as a phone-booth) and been transported back to 2003. Back then, I can remember reading the exact same things, except it was called a “testimonial” and it was usually on the Friendster profile of some hot, yet curiously single, asian girl.






My Story on LinkedIn:

Now I don’t normally have dreams about social networks, but this one I believe was triggered by my own recent LinkedIn experiences. After graduating in the spring, I began to pay more attention to LinkedIn and I created a profile for myself within it.

In one of my experiences I used the term “slide bitch” in an appropriate, albeit light-hearted description of my consulting internship. To this day, 5 different people have told me I should change my word choice, because it is “unprofessional”… *Gasp*, it’s as if I had been labelled a “communist“! I do not regret my word choice,  but these encounters made me see that in a society that prides itself on fostering individuality, as soon as the context is changed to a work environment, we toss aside our uniqueness and rush towards homogeneity.

When did professionalism begin to imply conformity?

Conformity, blend in and be unnoticed

Maybe I am spoiled by my tech background to think that creativity, adaptability and the quality of one’s output are what determines someone’s professional worth. Ironically, for a service meant to help people build professional relationships, LinkedIn conveys none of those traits which define those qualities.  Instead, its has 100 million user profiles which are  isomorphisms of one another and provide no greater depth than a printed resume.

I am not so naive to discount the reality of our world, and the politics that govern the workplace. Yet, this fear of jeopardizing our professional existence to the point where we choose to foresake those very traits that define us is not right. If LinkedIn is meant to foster relationships with other like minded professionals, then how can it possibly succeed if all we feed into it is the generic crap that society has taught us to mean “professional”?


If you need any convincing of how cookie-cutter LinkedIn recommendations are, visit this site: http://endorser.org/ , which offers a automated recommendation generator. It produced the following for me:

Bobby is not only a detail oriented and honest professional but also an inspiring developer. It was a pleasure to work together with Bobby, who was a passionate co-worker. Experienced expert – that’s Bobby! Strong strategist who can be trusted. Great and ambitious. Very positive attitude towards work. – A. Turing Machine


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