Linkedin: A Parallel Universe?

My thoughts on Linkedin and how people use it.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own.

One of the first things I learned when I came to the United States was the importance of networking. Generally, networking is very important, but here in the US, your network contributes more than all other factors to your success combined. Here, who you are/what you do is almost nothing compared to who you know/who knows you.

As far as I know, Linkedin is the most popular place for building/maintaining your professional network online. Naturally, I do my best to use Linkedin for the same purpose.

The problem is that I can’t understand Linkedin and how most people are using it. Every time I open Linkedin, I feel like I went to another planet with my TARDIS, opened the doors and found myself in the middle of a busy alien marketplace!

Source: https://taliesinttlg.blogspot.com
Source: https://taliesinttlg.blogspot.com

Well, parts of this intergalactic marketplace are interesting. But it just feels weird.

Today, I’m going to dump my thoughts on this subject and explain why I’m not a huge fan of Linkedin. Naturally, many of the topics I discuss are subjective, and you may or you may not agree with my opinions :)


Bragging or Promoting?

I understand that an important aspect of professional life is updating your network with your achievements. I don’t have any problems with self-promotion. But, sometimes, it’s hard for me to distinguish between a professional self-promotion post and a fancy bragging post.

source: https://9gag.com/gag/agBRe1g
source: https://9gag.com/gag/agBRe1g

While this is a joke, I think it’s not very far from reality. I think the person who posts on Linkedin knows better if the real intention of the post is to brag, or broadcast something important. I understand the line between these two is not always clear. But I think in the long run, low-quality and unprofessional content will hurt the person’s credibility and the platform in general.

Side Note: The machine learning community is more active on Twitter than on Linkedin! Interestingly, I think the informal tweets on Twitter seem less fake and bloated than the content I see on Linkedin!


The Linkedin language

This one may be very subjective.

But I don’t know why everyone uses the same template on Linkedin? It seems like 90% of posts starts with I [am/feel] [happy/thrilled/glad/excited] to [share/announce] .... Is it a secret recipe for success or what?

Also, why do we have to be so verbose on Linkedin?

As an example, let’s see simple news of an accepted paper. Between these two images below, I think the Twitter one is more professional. Both of them are trying to share their ICML papers with others, which is fantastic. But the amount of helpful information, the brevity, and the language are entirely different.


Do I know you?

The other thing I don’t really understand is how people are trying to make connections. As someone who is not well-known, I receive several connection requests from people I don’t know.

I think the fact that someone has some mutual connections with me does not imply we should be connected as well. Otherwise, eventually, everyone has to be connected to everyone else, and we’ll have a complete graph! But we know that social interaction/collaboration graphs do not follow this pattern. More oddly, I get requests from people that I’ve never seen/interacted with, never heard their name, and have no idea what they do. Let’s say we get connected on Linkedin. Then what?

I mean, isn’t the point of having a network getting help/giving help in the future? What are the odds that someone who doesn’t know you will help you in the future?

I think people are focusing too much on increasing the number of nodes/edges in their network/graph. But I think the graph is a weighted graph, and the quality matters more.

My rule of thumb for sending/accepting requests on Linkedin: If we have ever had a meaningful conversation (e.g., more than 5-10 mins of talking), let’s connect on Linkedin as well.


Conclusion

I think Linkedin is losing its credibility as a “professional” social network. In my opinion, the portion of unprofessional content is increasing, and this may hurt the credibility of Linkedin.

Having a good network is crucial to one’s success. I think we should work harder to have an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio on our professional networking platforms.

Iman Mirzadeh
Iman Mirzadeh
PhD Student & Research Assistant

PhD candidate & graduate research assistant.