Screw LinkedIn! Why Career Networking Sites Can be Unhealthy

depressedI joined LinkedIn a few years ago after finally realizing it would probably be a wise career move. Unlike the original mass flock of professionals rushing to join the site, initially I had resisted setting up my profile on LinkedIn because I wasn’t searching for a new job, wasn’t too concerned with networking, and just didn’t care to be bothered by it.

As LinkedIn continued to grow in popularity and became the premium career social networking site, I figured I was possibly selling myself short or missing out on career opportunities by continuing to eschew the site. So, finally one day I got around to signing up. The profile creation process was relatively simple and pain free (although it could be more of a hassle if you really take the time to beef up your profile). It wasn’t long before I was making connections and discovering the many career paths that friends and colleagues had taken. The experience was rather enjoyable…at first. As I continued to casually use LinkedIn, I realized the site can really become unhealthy and detrimental to you if you let it. How you ask? Before we get to that, let’s briefly touch on what makes LinkedIn a powerful career tool.

The Benefits of Career Social Networking Sites Like LinkedIn

  • Networking – The most obvious and potentially beneficial aspect of LinkedIn is the opportunity to network. Let’s face it, these days your ability to network is just as much of an asset as your education and work experience. Who you know can be the difference maker in landing a new position or, from a hiring perspective, ensuring you find quality people to join your team. LinkedIn makes networking far simpler than in the past (can you imagine having to locate a contact’s number in a rolodex as the only means to reach out?!). Of course, face-to-face networking is still to be held at a premium. In the absence of meeting in person, LinkedIn provides great opportunities to be a networking aficionado.
  • Find new employment – Career social networking sites might be able to assist you in finding a new job. First, there are job postings on LinkedIn. More over, the site is a Godsend for recruiters! What easier way for them to locate potential candidates for positions they are trying to fill? So, putting yourself on LinkedIn might lead to opportunities landing your lap. Conversely, you can seek out the recruiters and try to put yourself on their radar.
  • Stay in touch – You get to stay abreast of family and friends via Facebook. LinkedIn allows you to keep tabs on your professional circle. It’s a convenient way to get updates on old classmates, colleagues you no longer work with, and sometimes even colleagues with which you actually still do work!
  • Learn – LinkedIn lets you follow companies, industries, and educational institutions in order to stay on top of current news. The site also has lots of articles about career and personal development. If you have the time to invest in those resources, you could stand to learn a thing or two.

The Biggest Drawback to Career Social Networking Sites

There are several disadvantages to using LinkedIn. I’m going to focus on only one drawback though and it’s potentially a huge one:

Career social networking sites such as LinkedIn can make you feel like an unworthy, underachieving schmuck.

How? Hmm, well let’s see…Bob Brownnoser just got promoted to senior vice president. Lucy Luck landed a lucrative new position at the company of her dreams. Dave Dimwit is now CFO of a promising new start-up? Sally Slacksalot just got acknowledged for all of her “hard work”!? Frank Freshoutacollage is already a manager???

Ok, I’m done coming up with cheesy fake names 😉 I think you get the gist of where I’m heading. LinkedIn constantly bombards you with news and updates of other people’s amazing career accomplishments. I get an e-mail nearly every other day telling me I should congratulate so and so about whatever awesome thing just happened to them. Even if you turn off or pay no attention to these notifications, it’s still very easy to peruse the site and note how others are rapidly progressing to ever increasing career success.

The site makes it all too convenient to compare yourself to others in a mostly unhealthy way no matter what stage your career is in. If you’re seeking a promotion and struggling to get one, then watching connection after connection advance can be deflating. The same thing can be said if you’ve been suffering from job burnout. Even if you are currently satisfied with where your career is at, seeing person after person “movin’ on up” might cause you to start thinking you’re too complacent.

This phenomenon really is no different than what can happen on other social networking sites like Facebook. On Facebook, envy can arise when seeing pictures of or status updates about people’s exotic vacations, roaring parties, or exquisite dining experiences. With LinkedIn, the impetus to compare yourself is a bit more subtle. After all, the site is intended to help bolster your career. That’s why you’ve got to be careful and not let it chip away at your psyche.

A similar parallel is how beauty or fitness magazines portray unattainable body images. The constant exposure to the “ideal” body shapes can, after a while, get so ingrained in your mind that you have no problems belittling yourself. Now, this example isn’t the most accurate comparison to career social networking because you don’t really have the choice not be exposed to the airbrushed models used in all types of marketing. Conversely, you could abstain from LinkedIn. The similarity of unfairly comparing yourself, often subconsciously, still exists.

And, yes, I must acknowledge the flip side. It’s quite possible to use LinkedIn as a motivational tool to spur your career onward. Also, there is nothing forcing you to negatively compare yourself to the career achievements of others. That’s often easier said than done. Going back to the body image example – when you see a gorgeous model on the cover of a magazine, you could use that for motivation to shed those unwanted pounds and push yourself to get in spectacular shape. But, how many of us actually do that?

So, if you’re a current user of LinkedIn, be mindful of this potential downside. It really can take an emotional toll if you let it. If you’re considering joining the site, but are not yet a member, please be aware of the unhealthy psychological impact it can have.

If you find yourself letting LinkedIn get the best of you, remind yourself that life is not a race. That’s what I try to do during the instances when Bob Badattidude gets a job for which I know he is in no way qualified (sorry, I lied about being done with the cheesy names!!). Either that or you realize climbing the corporate ladder isn’t the real way to become rich.

Do you have a profile on LinkedIn? Do you use the site or get regular updates about your connections’ achievements? How does this effect you? Have you ever found yourself making comparisons or getting discouraged? If yes, how do you deal with those feelings? Would you ever consider removing your LinkedIn profile? Or do the benefits outweigh this and any other drawbacks?

I’m trying to drive up my Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, and E-mail subscriptions. You can also follow along via Google+, BlogLovin, or RSS. Please help me reach my goals by selecting one or all of these options!

Image courtesy of Tambako The Jaguar at Flickr.

26 Responses to Screw LinkedIn! Why Career Networking Sites Can be Unhealthy

  1. The Phroogal Jason March 10, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    I’m a big LinkedIn fan. I look at it quite differently as a great tool to network and collaborate with others. I’ve met some great contacts through LinkedIn and participate heavily in LinkedIn groups.

    What’s great about seeing people promoted within your network is that now you’re connected with achievers. It’s better to be in a network of achievers than not.
    The Phroogal Jason recently posted…4 Ways to Spring Forward Your Finances for Daylight Savings TimeMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anyone not use the site! And, as I stated, it can be a “powerful career tool.” We, as humans, have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others. For many people, this can detrimental because they’ll almost always see themselves in a negative light. That’s what I’m honing in on – because LinkedIn creates an atmosphere where that easily happen if you let it.

  2. Money Beagle March 10, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    I think there’s value. My buddy said he got an out of the blue job offer that pays $25k more, when I asked how they found him, he said it was through LinkedIn. He isn’t actively looking but will give that some consideration. I guess if you don’t put yourself out there, you might never know if it leads to any opportunities.
    Money Beagle recently posted…Urgent Care or Emergency Room: 6 Ways To Decide Which Is Best?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 10, 2014 at 11:24 am #

      Oh, there is absolutely value to be had with LinkedIn which is why I made sure to highlight the advantages the site provides. I’d even go so far to say the benefits outweigh the potential disadvantages. But, as with anything that puts the accomplishments and achievements of others smack in your face, you’ve got to be able to filter appropriately so you don’t make unfair comparisons with yourself. I totally agree about putting yourself out there. My intent was not to say avoid LinkedIn at all costs, just be mindful. And, congrats to your friend – $25k sounds like a substantial raise.

  3. Peter March 10, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Those people can certainly make you feel that way, but I guess it can be a good motivator as well.
    Peter recently posted…Getting back on the budget groove – I gotta talk to my wifeMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

      It sure can go either way and a lot probably has to do with where you are career-wise and with your current job satisfaction level. We live in a culture that promotes instant gratification, so being stuck in a career rut while everyone else seemingly excels can be tough to handle.

  4. The Thrifty Issue March 11, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    I’ve never compared myself to others on LinkedIn, it didn’t occur to me to. I see other achievements and am happy for them, but I don’t feel bad for not achieving the same. I have my goals and they have theirs.
    The Thrifty Issue recently posted…How To Make A Personalised BlanketMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

      That’s a sensible way to approach LinkedIn.

  5. Aspiring Millionaire March 11, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    I have had a few opportunities and great connections come through LinkedIn. Never looked at the down side you mention.
    Aspiring Millionaire recently posted…What to do when your plan isn’t working!My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

      Hopefully you never start looking at the down side then! I know there are people who do though – I’ve come across them quite often.

  6. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich March 11, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    I’ve never really had any issues with LinkedIn – although what you said could pretty much be true of any social networking site – all of them can inspire envy and be a little disheartening when your life isn’t totally peachy. People don’t post about the bad days.

    Personally, I found LinkedIn extremely useful when I was applying for jobs recently. Before I would write a cover letter, I would type in the company’s name and see if any old friends or acquaintances had any sort of connection to the company. If they did, I would drop them a note and ask them about their experience there and mention I was thinking about applying. It was really helpful.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…A Day in the Life of a Circus Stage ManagerMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 11, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      Yep, the networking benefit can be huge and it sounds like it paid dividends for you. A lot of the potential bad side of LinkedIn is really the “grass is greener on the other side” type mentality.

  7. Untemplater March 11, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m terrible at social media and networking sites. There are benefits as you noted, but I agree with the negatives. I miss the days when there was less transparency.
    Untemplater recently posted…Never Underestimate What You’re Capable OfMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 12, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

      I know what you mean, especially with Facebook – oftentimes too much transparency. LinkedIn isn’t as much “hey, look at my wonderful life” type of atmosphere, but it can still make you feel crummy if you let it.

  8. Addison @ Cashville Skyline March 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    I can totally relate to your annoyance at seeing everyone else’s career milestones. It’s especially annoying to get these updates via email!

    I still use LinkedIn for networking. Even if I’m not looking for a new job at the moment, I’ll want to see who I may be connected to at my future dream company.
    Addison @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…Five Must-Visit Reasonably Priced Cities for your U.S. Travel Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia March 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      And, it’s a product of LinkedIn itself. Meaning, for the most part, it’s not like your connections are trying to gloat. Rather, it’s the nature of the site to constantly update or remind you how well everyone else is doing! But, yeah, you should continue to use it for networking because doing so could pay dividends eventually.

  9. Tom @ financeandFlipFlops March 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    I’ll be honest, anytime I’m about to start comparing myself to a colleague or especially a friend, I remind myself it’s not a race and all that matters is where I’m at in comparison to my goals. If anything, I should be happy for my friends’ success in life. At minimum this means I’ve got friends in high places.

    • Mr. Utopia March 17, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

      That’s very well said and a great way to internalize these types of situations.

  10. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter March 26, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    I hear where you are coming from, as this feeling is typical of many social media sites (ie Facbeook, when you see other people go on vacation, etc). I like LinkedIn because by connecting with my boss on the site, she can see my updates when I’ve accomplished something at work, without me having to necessarily let her know about it.

    • Mr. Utopia March 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Social media is a slippery slope. To me, LinkedIn has more practical value than other sites (like Facebook) since it can be a valuable career enhancing tool. Still though, you’ve got to be careful to not get too caught up in other’s achievements compared to your own.

  11. Sam April 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    Hmm, I don’t check much but I do highlight posts for Personal Capital on their linkedin page as part of my contracting work.

    I guess when you are CEO of your own business, no matter how small, nothing you read about others really phases you.
    Sam recently posted…How Much Do I Have To Make As An Entrepreneur To Replace My Day Job Income?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia April 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      There’s nothing wrong with highlighting posts or using LinkedIn as any other medium to further your career. You’ve just got to be careful to not get caught up in comparing yourself to other’s successes especially if you are susceptible to that kind of stuff. Yes, I can see how running your own business would most likely diminish the impact of what others are accomplishing…unless your company is on the rocks!

  12. Ross Atkinson June 2, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    I see linked in as a possible way to lose a competitive edge. You may make contacts that benefit you or your company. If you promote these contacts, you mey be letting all your competitors know of your link to these suppliers, customers, etc. I also feel too much of the self or others promotion of abilities is a farce. I have been on LI for a couple of years and have been endorsed for certain skills by people who have no idea if I actually can perform these skills. It can develop into a bit of look how good I am. I’ll promote you if you promote me. I have been endorsed by people I know personally through other avenues, but whom would have no idea if I can actually do the skills they endorse me for, even if I have said what I did, how do they know if I can perform these tasks. I think the whole thing is a bit of a I can blow my own trumpet exercise. If it didn’t include the endorsements, I think it would perhaps be ok.

  13. Anonymous May 26, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Apologies, I know this is an old post, but I completely agree with you! Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them but at the same time it just makes me more depressed about my own life lol!

  14. jobseeker July 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    The people that don’t see this sort of thing are lucky to be successful and have never had it bad, but I bet when they do, they will be looking at others linkedin profiles and feeling depressed.

    Probably one of the main reasons i keep my facebook activity to a minimum is why should i tell the public my life, let alone my work history?

    Also, what if I had bust ups with previous colleagues? We don’t live in a perfect world and these things do make you feel depressed!

    Bad managers, bad colleagues, we live in a predatory work place where people will kill your career and think nothing of it! Thess things have happened to me so that’s how I know.

    It’s like being at school and saying I got better grades than you. I don’t think it’s healthy or fair!

  15. karma July 4, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Linkedin would be better if…

    • You could only list a company you worked at by proving that you actually worked there
    • You have actually got the certificates/qualifications that you claim to have
    • Your connections were not all recruiters
    • The jobs advertised actually existed

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge