Catherine Van Weele
We hear it again and again: Social media is dangerous.
Our Facebooks and Instagrams are the highlight reels of our lives, and this is supposedly the worst of it.
But when it comes to social media use and mental health, LinkedIn might be more insidious than the others — especially in today’s “hustle” culture, where being busy is equated with being successful.
The employment-oriented platform is a space for professional networking and a job candidate database for employers. It also happens to be the perfect platform for tracking – not just peers, potential employers or competition within the industry – but whether your ex-boyfriend ended up getting that promotion (or, if you have time to spare, what your current boyfriend’s exes are up to and how you compare). Few things induce more anxiety than an old high school acquaintance who has had approximately 12 more internships than you.
Using LinkedIn can make us feel hyperactive, uncharacteristic enthusiasm, social and extracurricular overextension and academic distress. They also enjoy phrases like “Congratulations, Julie,” “Love your work,” “So happy to connect with you” and “I had a great time today expressing my passion for vertical growth and synergy.” Many have mastered the art of seamlessly incorporating the top 20 LinkedIn buzzwords into a perfect profile summary – probably because they all went to the same campus workshop.
Of course, there are risks that accompany social media use: Cyberbullying, hacking, identity theft and improper data use. Then, there are more subversive ones such as anxiety, loneliness and unhappiness.
Much like Instagram tells us we are missing out, LinkedIn tells us we are not doing enough. Photo-sharing platforms might make us feel like we aren’t attractive or fun enough, but resume-sharing platforms can make us feel like we aren’t smart or successful enough, and these are attributes that we’re taught actually matter.
It’s also difficult to approach LinkedIn in the same way we are encouraged to approach other social platforms. We are supposed to avoid synthetic relationships and be honest, or at least try to be, about the way we portray ourselves and interact with others online.
“Networking makes us feel dirty,” said contributing writer Adam Grant in a New York Times article, “to the point that one study found that people rate soap and toothpaste 19% more positively after imagining themselves angling to make professional contacts at a cocktail party.”
Although LinkedIn has done a great job connecting people professionally, these relationships oftentimes feel more transactional than genuine. The scary reality is the more we rely on apps to forge or maintain connections, the easier it becomes to reduce people to their online presence. We have become our Twitter feeds, our Facebook profiles and our LinkedIn resumes. And we are constantly evaluating each other and ourselves.
LinkedIn is undoubtedly a powerful tool for connecting and exploring career opportunities and certainly one worth taking advantage of. Just remember to connect with caution, stalk responsibly, manage your use and consume intentionally.
Anna Fiorino is a senior studying journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @annafi0.