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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Don't let LinkedIn make you feel inadequate

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DTH Photo Illustration.

I avoid LinkedIn like the plague. 

I know that whenever I open the website, I will be bombarded by my peers announcing how privileged, grateful, thankful and blessed they are to accept an impressive professional opportunity. 

I know that every time I get off LinkedIn, I won't be able to escape feelings of inadequacy. Why subject myself to that? Before you remind me that no one is forcing me to have a LinkedIn account, trust me — I know. However, it feels like having a presence on the platform is anything but optional.

LinkedIn is a social media platform that emphasizes networking, business and employment, and has many of the features of a more traditional social media site. It is the world’s largest online professional network, garnering more than 1 billion users since it was launched in May 2003. 

While LinkedIn can be effective in helping individuals find jobs, internships, professional opportunities and mentors, the platform contributes to already high levels of stress among students. From my experience, it makes us second-guess our professional and academic worth.

I’ve found that the majority of issues surrounding LinkedIn stem from its shift toward a social media site rather than a virtual resume. 

While LinkedIn is a social media platform, it is rarely addressed as such. While people talk about social media platforms like Instagram showcasing an unrealistic and glorified version of people's lives, they don't often apply those criticisms to LinkedIn. Similar to most other non-professional social media sites, users on LinkedIn heavily manicure their images. And like on Instagram, the comment sections of posts on LinkedIn are often filled with empty and surface-level compliments — preset options such as “great work” or “congratulations” available with the tap of a button.

I find it helpful to remind myself that LinkedIn users are all maintaining online presences that do not not display the nuances of their real lives.

LinkedIn further influences how its users interact on the platform by prompting users to post to their connections each time they add a new job, internship or promotion to this profile. It is evident that LinkedIn wants users to announce their accomplishments, posting them for others rather than their own personal fulfillment.

LinkedIn has a toxic culture of competition. Being flooded with the successes of peers can be overwhelming and sometimes breeds feelings of inferiority among students. Additionally, LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards users who have reached 500 connections. When a user reaches this milestone on the platform, they appear higher in the search results and their profile displays the words “500+ connections.” 

According to LinkedIn, the 500+ limit emphasizes the importance of quality connections. While this may be a good idea in theory, in practice my friends and I often get caught up racing to 500 connections — sometimes scrambling to connect with complete strangers just to reach that number. I have seen peers obsess over reaching this benchmark of connections, worrying more about making a number on a screen go up than forming genuine connections. 

LinkedIn has absolutely made networking more accessible — I cannot understate this enough. Before LinkedIn’s inception, networking occurred in person, in overwhelmingly wealthy and white circles. LinkedIn allows users to network with individuals they may not have been able to in the past. While LinkedIn has made networking more equitable, the platform’s existence as a social media site and that adjacent culture emphasizes the wrong parts of networking.

I implore LinkedIn users to go further than merely pressing “connect” when looking to network on the platform. Delve deeper into the connection, spark a conversation. 

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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