Finally, I Closed My LinkedIn

Ruminations on outsourcing our values
By P.C. Maffey
Published 10/22/2019
4 pages

This was not some momentous event. I'd been thinking about closing my account for a while now. I never used LinkedIn... hadn't even updated my profile in the 9 months since I left my last software engineering job. I'd get occasional recruiter inquiries, random connection requests, but nothing ever of value—even from the hundred or so "real" connections I'd passively acquired over the years.

As everyone knows, LinkedIn is a glorified resume site. Nothing actually happens there (unless you are a recruiter or in enterprise sales?). As someone who cares about privacy and intentionally managing my tools and public information, why did I keep a LinkedIn profile? Why do we all?

I'd created my profile back in 2011 when I was looking for work. It was hard times finding a job, as I'd been out of tech for a few years. I diligently copied over my resume and started getting connection requests from people I knew. Potential employers have occasionally asked for my LinkedIn profile in addition to my resume, but no one ever asks for just my LinkedIn. So it's not like it's disrupted the resume.

I'm fairly certain LinkedIn has never helped me in my job search. This is likely not true for everyone, but I'd go so far as to say that unless your profile is exceptional for some reason, it probably does more harm than good. You and I are just another candidate in a tall stack—ie. our profiles are more useless information they can use to cross our name off.

Even though I'm no longer looking for a job, I kept delaying closing my account. What if the company I'm cofounding never gets off the ground? What if I get desperate and need to find another job? The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is why everyone still has a LinkedIn account: fear.

Fear of scarcity. Not having a job when you need a job is a terrible feeling, I get it. It's why I joined LinkedIn in the first place. For me at least, it's been a waste of time.

Fear of missing out. Maybe some magical opportunity might trickle down through your network of connections? The truth is, if you're relying on LinkedIn to manage your network, those relationships are thin as tinsel. You can do better.

Fear of being different. Everyone has a LinkedIn profile, right? So if you're not participating you're probably a weirdo?

Hiring is broken. People leave their jobs every 2 years or less. The corporate work culture survives on people's fears. If you don't play by the rules of the people in power, how will you make money, how will you feed your family, how will you contribute to society? It's a vicious cycle perpetuated by our willingness to outsource our values.

And yet, it seems that so few in the corporate world can identify value. They hunger for it, but they struggle to see it. Instead, they look for empty reflections of themselves.

When people long for the days of the early web, the glorious idiosyncracies of personal sites and forums, they are really longing for a time and a space where people were free to communicate their own values. Now that space is owned and rented to the highest bidder. A site like LinkedIn wraps you up into a tiny, uniform package, sets you in an enormous data warehouse next to millions of other tiny people just like you, and sells the lot of you.

It doesn't really matter, but that's not a world I want to participate in. So I will find other ways to communicate my values, my progress, hopefully, in weird little stories people find interesting.

I got final approval from my wife and cofounder. "Having only 100 connections probably does more harm than good," she says, reflecting my earlier thoughts back to me. So I logged in for the first time in forever, went into the settings, and closed my account. (Here's some instructions.) I'm still not sure if I just disappeared from my connections' LinkedIn or what. But one thing I am sure about: no one will notice.

This post hit was a favorite of Hacker News (2019). Here's what people had to say then:

Thanks for reading! I'm a product engineer, writing about how to be a human in a computer world. This site is my digital garden. Explore, enjoy. My mailbox is always open.

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