Why I'm Not on LinkedIn

Published: March 21st, 2022

If you want to improve your life, you're more likely to see results by removing something from your life rather than adding something new. Although I had an active LinkedIn account for nearly a decade, I deleted my LinkedIn account some time ago for a few reasons.

First and foremost it has never been useful for finding work nor has it been useful for networking for me personally. I started a LinkedIn around 2009ish and never, not once had gained anything useful from it (and I imagine the same can be said of most users on LinkedIn). Every career advancement or new job I've ever got was a direct result of networking with real people.

The LinkedIn feed itself is filled to the brim with self-promotion, advertisements, and morally disingenuous signaling aimed at communicating good character of a person or company. Most of the people I was connected with didn't even use it, and the ones that did are guilty of doing all of the above. From my experience, the people that actually use it contribute to the circle-jerk of self-proclaimed "thought leaders", "gurus", and "growth hackers". Although the environment is slightly less toxic than other social platforms, LinkedIn is just too masturbatory for my taste. One of the primary reasons I ditched personal social media was because of the low quality content ending up in front of my eyeballs, and LinkedIn has no shortage of low quality content.

Furthermore, LinkedIn has devolved into a "walled garden". In order to view someone's LinkedIn page, oftentimes you must also be signed in to an active LinkedIn account to view it. Many social media platforms have begun doing this and I absolutely hate this kind of practice. It is a blatant attempt to increase their user base and forcing people to have an account in order to see content users have created. This is yet another reason why I believe it's important to have your own website. However, it's entirely possible they did this because information databases were routinely scraping the site for information which would later be sold as a people-search service.

For me, LinkedIn contributes to destroying my attention, but the same could be said for every social media platform. I am someone who values focus and LinkedIn is simply one more distraction that has more drawbacks then benefits. When it comes to productivity, I find that I am more productive in the grand scheme of things without having these accounts. There have been several times I've caught myself scrolling LinkedIn, reading posts of very little substance, before I realized there was actual work to be done.

One of the reasons why LinkedIn contributes to distraction is because the platform intentionally exploits human social psychology. As a former Google designer ethicist Tristan Harris points out in his essay "How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind", LinkedIn is a social reciprocity factory that wants as many people creating social obligations for each other as possible. These obligations come in the form of accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill. In addition to these, LinkedIn also incorporates dark patterns which tricks the user into providing their contact list that generates spam invites to those not on the platform. Each time the user reciprocates, they have to come back to LinkedIn.com where they can get people to spend more time on the platform. Harris drops a quote-worthy statement:

Imagine millions of people getting interrupted like this throughout their day, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, reciprocating each other — all designed by companies who profit from it.
Welcome to social media.

So why not just leave the account open because "I might need this one day"? Aside from sounding like a hoarder, people-search data aggregators are scraping data to increase their portfolio, they also have a not so great privacy policy and a history of not so good security. The Terms of Service is not user friendly (I'd go so far as to say they're user hostile). Heather Bussing wrote an excellent write-up about some of the flaws in their policy including the fact that they have an unlimited license to sell my information to anyone, including the right to commercialize it without any consent, notice, or compensation. Additionally, I don't want LinkedIn to be the place for people to contact me because I never check it and 99% of the time I get a message, it's spam.

This isn't to say LinkedIn does not serve a purpose - other people may find value in it that I haven't addressed or perhaps they have success stories. If you're a newly established company having a LinkedIn presence may give you a credibility bump when you're trying to take on new clients who use the platform heavily. If I were operating a business, maybe I'd have a LinkedIn presence and, depending on the company, I could be on other social media platforms as well because the reality is is that people (lots of people) are on social media. However, if I were said business owner, I'd also invest heavily into my website.

How do you respond if this comes up in an interview? I've read online that during the hiring process, applicants without a LinkedIn account have been specifically asked this question. During an interview for a new role in early 2021, this was actually brought up during my conversation with HR. It was mentioned that she tried looking for me on LinkedIn and I decided to tackle this head on because I was worried she thought I deleted or blocked her (I had previously worked at this agency and we were once connected). I stated that I deactivated my account because I wasn't actively looking for work prior to being interviewed and that my website is the home of my professional experience. I was also straight forward and said that I saw LinkedIn as a distraction. This was only a minor part of the conversation and I received the job offer, but I think it's important to have a legitimate answer prepared depending on the circumstances and the role you're being interviewed for. Being transparent with your reasoning demonstrates that you're thinking critically and you're being intentional with your decision.

Does having a LinkedIn profile really make you stand out as an independent and creative person? Or maybe, having a personal website is what really makes you stand out and better for demonstrating independence and creativity.

On a personal basis, it's not for me. My website exists for the purpose of replacing my social media profiles, including LinkedIn which is why my professional and academic experience has a dedicated page. Will that reduce my visibility? Perhaps, but I've also been investing my time into my website as a replacement. It seems, to me, the winning move is not to play.

Note: I originally wrote this in early 2021, but have since updated it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to hey@chuck.is.