Why Is LinkedIn Such a Cringefest?
What not to do to better your career.
I first noticed something was off in 2014.
I’d just created my Linkedin profile. I was scrolling, looking at posts, getting the lay of the land. Then I saw this post with millions of views. It was a picture of Albert Einstein — with a math question?
It seemed so out of place. It was very much like this one:
Below it was 40,000+ comments, with people spamming numbers. I wondered what users were hoping to accomplish by leaving their answers in the comments.
Were they hoping some hot recruiter would write to them and say, “Hey, big boy, so I saw you solve that math problem on LinkedIn the other day. Want a job?”
Things only got worse.
Going Viral Is Too Simple
The first problem is that the algorithm is easy to game. Here’s how. This will seem like a joke (it is but it isn’t):
Tell them how you failed.
Tell then how you failed again.
Tell them how you got back up.
Tell them how you kept going when nobody believed in you.
Start every sentence with the same words.
Then they tell them how they just: <insert cliche on overcoming/exercise/changed mindset>.
(And make sure to use lots of big spaces between your sentences.)
Boom. Watch it go viral. It’s the cringiest thing possible. It’s terrible personal marketing. But hey, you only live once.
Here’s what it looks like in action.
Welcome to the enigma of the viral shitpost.
Linkedin is a trap for bad content. Don’t fall in. None of those internet points translate to real-world dollars.
I was invited to ghostwrite for a company that was doing those “Broetry”(above) posts. When I saw the content they were writing, I knew it wouldn’t last long (they were charging $5K per month for four posts like the above!).
The startup collapsed within nine months. It was like a reverse pregnancy.
Why Do Such Trash Posts Go Viral?
There’s a couple of reasons.
Yes, short attention spans are a part of it. But, by far, the biggest contributor is that lots of users aren’t good at English. And I say that with no malice.
Many non-native speakers see these posts and can’t see the nuance of why it’s terrible writing. But they recognize the simple verbs and nouns. They put the puzzle together and hail praise to the mighty turd.
I can't blame them. I’d probably upvote a Spanish shitpost without knowing it.
Here’s a tone-deaf example. This went super-viral:
Note on the above: they said they don’t want money but then later in the post say they want a salary increase.
Quick side tip: don’t capitalize words unless there is a very specific reason. The tone can be interpreted as a bit hostile. Also, don’t ever write a post like that.
My theory is that any algorithm-based platform, including Medium, will eventually devolve into Facebook without some sort of intervention. Human beings don't know how to optimize for quality on their own.
For example, Rule #1 of getting internet points (be hot), applies to LinkedIn, even if the post has no relation to the purpose of the platform.
Case in point:
Their English might be bad. But all men are fluent in thirst. Just as an FYI, if you leave a comment on a LinkedIn post, it’s automatically going to show that post, with your comment highlighted, to a number of your connections.
It won’t be great personal branding. I learned this first hand.
I was messaged by my CEO after I left a frustrated comment on a post. You may recognize the post. It goes viral at least once a year.
There will always be thousands of comments about how amazing this meme is and how companies should be just like wolf packs.
The problem? That isn’t how wolf packs operate.
The alpha doesn’t just sit at the back and it’s ridiculous that this meme keeps getting recirculated. No, this fake-story isn’t a world-changing issue. It’s just annoying that people just make up science to fit a clicky narrative.
I left a comment correcting it, perhaps a bit bluntly. My comment got buried in the cluttered sludge of fanboys. Unexpectedly, my CEO saw the comment.
He emailed me something to the effect of, “How’d you know that about that wolf post?” Then I explained it to him (I consume a lot of wildlife documentaries), and also explained my harsh tone.
I’ll give you one last example. It is constantly going viral.
This isn’t what happened. The baby on the right isn’t even the same baby. The girl on the right is the sister of the girl on the left.
The bigger point: we need to be careful about how we engage on these platforms. It’s super easy to look like a dumb-dumb because of all the blatantly false content that floats around.
Additionally, we need to be mindful of our ego. Resist the urge to flex post.
Love it or hate it, Linkedin is full of lurkers. They are quick to judge. And many of those judgemental lurkers scan resumes for a living. Don’t be a cringe bot.
LinkedIn has become a meme. But you don’t have to be part of it. Lest you join the annals of bad marketing.
And men, enough with the thirst comments. It’s super weird. In the history of man, I don’t think they’ve ever led to anything good, particularly when your supervisor sees it.