Digital

Connecting to people we don’t know on LinkedIn is a waste of time

- September 8, 2020 4 MIN READ

Time you could be spending sewing face masks, baking sourdough, looting stores or waiting for Q’s next cryptic instruction.

Let’s consider whether adding another connection to another stranger is actually going to help you achieve anything, or whether the value of your time is actually all going to Microsoft (which owns LinkedIn).

How many contacts can you really stay up-to-date with?

LinkedIn says I’m connected to 7,881 people. If they all just post an update once a month (some of them post once a day, some of them once a year) and I spend on average about a minute reading each update and choosing a reaction emoji, that’s 94,572 minutes a year.

That’s impossible, of course. We simply can’t do what LinkedIn says it wants us to do — to stay connected with everyone we know professionally on LinkedIn, while also holding down a job.

How much is your lost LinkedIn time worth?

I may have more LinkedIn connections than most LinkedIn users, but look at your own numbers, and do the math. Can you show it’s definitively led to a job offer, promotion, pay rise or new customer worth that many minutes of your time each year? How about over five years? If I do that math, using my average hourly rate over the past five years, I’d have to make more than a million additional dollars in that five year period. I’m pretty sure I would have noticed that happening by now!

And that’s before you account for LinkedIn trying to stop you staying up-to-date with everyone

For most of us, a lot of updates scroll off the bottom of the LinkedIn feed before we ever see them. Many hours are wasted by posting updates we’ll probably never see. The more people you’re connected to, the more of their time you’re wasting and the less effective you’re making your own networking time on LinkedIn.

There’s a button at the bottom of your LinkedIn feed. It’s there all the time. I’ll bet that unless you’re working in product at LinkedIn, looking for a job, or working in recruitment, you’ve never even seen this button.

It’s the button you’d need to click on to see any updates that have already been scrolled off the bottom of your screen by the LinkedIn algorithm.

This is what it looks like:

Image for post

Keep scrolling and you’ll find it. But scrolling that far is not what LinkedIn wants you to do.

Instead, the feed algorithms ensure that updates and posts that get more engagements from other contacts are more likely to be shown. So the feed algorithm is actually going to make it harder to surface what’s really going on for people you haven’t heard from in a while, and for people who just aren’t very good at being engaging on LinkedIn.

They could be the smartest, most successful people in your entire network. They could be sitting on something which really is going to add another million dollars to your next five years’ income, or change your life massively and forever. But every additional person you connect with on LinkedIn pushes you further away from them, unless they also happen to be very effective at content marketing on LinkedIn.

Even if you could comprehend that many updates, you’d never remember all those people

Google “the Dunbar number” or better yet, here’s a great article about it by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker:

“…groups can extend to five hundred, the acquaintance level, and to fifteen hundred, the absolute limit — the people for whom you can put a name to a face. While the group sizes are relatively stable, their composition can be fluid. Your five today may not be your five next week; people drift among layers and sometimes fall out of them altogether.”
– Maria Konnikova, “The Limits of Friendship”, The New Yorker, 7 Oct, 2015

I have a social network disability

If I were neuro-normal, I’d be able to remember the name and face of about one in five of the people I’m currently connected to on LinkedIn. But I suffer from some facial blindness which leaves me unable even to remember all the people I might meet at a large company event or conference. Sometimes I can’t recall the names of close friends and family. Being subjected to more LinkedIn updates, more frequently, makes it worse.

UWA has a free 15min free facial blindness test, if you think you might suffer from this problem too.

So, like, why?

What’s the point of adding even more people to my LinkedIn contacts if I don’t remember who they are and I’m unlikely to be able to stay in touch with them because the platform actually wants me to focus on the people it thinks get the highest engagement?

It makes no sense for you, or for me.

But it makes sense for LinkedIn. More people connected to more people means more data that can be sold to marketers, recruiters and employers, and more data that will help Microsoft advertise its own products to me.

This has been a rather long read. But this is what actually being connected to someone really is about, right? Not emojis and 25-words-or-less replies.

Here’s a previous post I wrote on the topic if you want to go further.

With big thanks to Lara Schilken (https://twitter.com/SchilkenLara) the startup entrepreneur who was the unwitting inspiration for the blog post. She was brave and big-hearted enough to accept it gracefully as a reply to her well-meaning LinkedIn connection request. She makes great-looking athletic and swimwear for active women out of recycled plastic fishing nets that you should totally check out at https://viragoactive.com

This article originally appeared on Medium. You can read the original here.

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