This Week I Quit LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a ubiquitous, career-centric, social media platform. So, why did I decide to quit?
First, a word of caution. A warning, like those ones you get on finance articles saying the ideas don’t constitute investment advice and you shouldn’t buy or sell based on what the author says.
I believe quitting makes sense for me, both professionally and as an act of self-care. Maybe it does for you too. But there’s also a good chance it doesn’t. Exercise caution before nuking your LinkedIn account!
With that out of the way, here’s why I quit LinkedIn.
What Is The Point Of LinkedIn?
LinkedIn isn’t a terrible platform. Yes, it’s frequently mocked and not always well loved. But LinkedIn works well and, for a lot of people, is arguably the best form of social media.
If you’re looking to get a job, or hire a new employee or pitch your services to corporate clients, then LinkedIn is fantastically effective.
So, if you work for a company with a human resources department, or you have companies like that among your clients, not only should you be on LinkedIn, but it would also make sense to make sure your LinkedIn page is full of fresh updates and references.
But that’s not me.
The False Promise Of Being Everywhere
We still see social media gurus advising people to be active on every platform. This makes sense if your business model is selling consulting time. The more strategies your clients need for each and every platform, the more time you can sell.
This advice made sense ten years ago. I’m not sure it does anymore.
Early on, we didn’t know which platforms might flourish. So it made sense to claim your space on many of them. But now the social media is so well developed you can pick and choose the platforms that suit you best. There might be a reason for you to put your films on Vimeo instead of YouTube, or to share your photos on Glass or VSCO instead of Instagram. But you don’t need to be on all of them.
We Don’t All Have A Team To Back Us Up
Big brands manage to do well on multiple platforms because there’s a team, sometimes more than a hundred people, working on it. Even if a celebrity takes their own selfie or writes a caption, there’s a team at work. Although I occasionally dunk on social media “gurus”, there’s a lot of very smart, hard-working people who consult with smaller companies and creatives to amplify their work and help them make strategic decisions.
It’s tempting to try to be everywhere. But finding an audience on numerous platforms isn’t a part-time, DIY project, and being on a lot of platforms without an active and engaged following on each of them doesn’t achieve much when it comes to growing the audience for our creative work.
A much better place to start is looking at how much time (and money) you have and asking where you can make an impact.
What About Thought Leadership?
Over the years, LinkedIn has evolved to include a lot of thought leadership, which makes sense for a career-forward, professional social network. While Twitter is still the sine qua non of thought leadership, LinkedIn has some natural advantages.
If you’re a C-suite executive, a business coach, or an author who writes about economics, finance, or workplace culture, then being on LinkedIn as a thought leader is a no-brainer. You should do it. You will be speaking to an engaged and captive audience.
And, of course, if you’re a C-suite executive, you aren’t doing this alone. You have a team of expert communications and marketing people, along with professional copywriters, photographers, and videographers helping you.
But if you’re not in those circles or don’t have those resources, then LinkedIn becomes another place you are trying to grow an audience. It’s no different to the challenge of creating a following on alternative platforms like Medium. IL “Repurposing content” doesn’t work. You have to create for the audience expectations specific to the platform if you want to gain a following there.
Participating In Marketplaces
LinkedIn is looking to add a freelance marketplace to compete with services like Fiverr and Upwork. This will allow users to post projects and get creatives to compete with each other for the work, while LinkedIn can take a cut of any transaction.
But, as I wrote before, my experience of pitching creative work on LinkedIn or being approached by potential corporate clients there has been consistently and dispiritingly terrible. IL It’s hard to shake the feeling these marketplaces serve only to pit creatives against each other in a battle for the work of clients who are motivated more by paying as little as possible than by rewarding quality work.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. These marketplaces are here to stay. The news that Fiverr bought CreativeLive this week only reinforces that.
Even if these marketplaces were fairer, they’re still something I’ve chosen to not work inside. Quitting freelancing was a strategic decision I expect will carry me through the rest of my working life. The commercial work I do is self-directed. I’ll collaborate and take commissions, but I don’t pitch or work to spec.
The Psychology Of Self-Presentation
Logging into LinkedIn makes me feel terrible. I see my life dissected and reassembled according to LinkedIn’s layout, and it looks appalling, fragmented, and uneven. I can tell a coherent story about my life and my work, but not in the format LinkedIn demands.
This sense of a coherent identity is something I’ve struggled with all my life. It doesn’t just weave through my career; it’s also connected to growing up as an immigrant kid and living my adult life as an expat, to joining the church then leaving the church, to finding academic success then quitting a PhD, to being a professional musician early in life then coming back to the arts in midlife.
This might make me a poor candidate in a regular job interview. It might make for droll answers to the tedious “so, what do you do?” questions from strangers at social events, but this story is the product of a lot of decisions that have unlocked all sorts of opportunities to explore the world, meet amazing people, and investigate how far I can push my creativity. And I don’t, in any way, regret those decisions.
So why should I try to squeeze my story into the constraints of a platform that wasn’t made for me?
Choose Your Validation Carefully
LinkedIn is great as a soft background check. A digital CV does fulfill a need. I know people who have a sense of pride about their LinkedIn profile and the engagement it generates.
I know I’m blessed, lucky, privileged – call it what you will – to be in the position to do what I do. Sometimes I protest and say it hasn’t been easy and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, but the truth is the cards have fallen in my favour several times, and I’ve had a lot of support.
But I’ve also had to learn to make better choices around where I seek validation. When you’re unsure of your story, it’s easy to fall into people-pleasing behavior. I’ve had to learn to keep the list of people whose opinions matter quite small. This includes prioritizing the views of people invested in my well-being and my improvement as a creator.
In a recent session, my therapist said I should give myself the “gift of completion”. This was a perfect insight and ties directly to the decision I’ve made to quite freelancing and focus on the things I create in my writing and studio practice. It’s there, in the work, as it’s finished and shipped, that I can find the right kind of validation.
And not on LinkedIn.
This Week I Quit is an occasional series about using minimalism and simplicity to foster creativity, productivity, and well-being. The series originally ran from 2016 to 2019, and you can read a summary of that series here. You can find an archive of all This Week I Quit articles here. You can also follow the hashtag #ThisWeekIQuit on Twitter.