My main complaint about LinkedIn is that it’s a cold system, no fun at all. Very much geared to the middle-management salesguy, stylistically. When I’m on the site – as I have to be every few days, to respond courteously to people I like – I feel exactly as I do when cornered with a junior sales exec at a conference. I want to get away as quickly as possible (and at least with LinkedIn I don’t have to stay put in order to get my coffee or the arugula and Parmesan salad they serve at SIIA’s January conference at Cipriani’s). Goofy as Facebook is, with “plants” and “drinks” to send and walls to write on, at least it’s kind of interesting!
But the really annoying thing is the options LinkedIn provides, or doesn’t. People I don’t know can invite me to “join my professional network.” I have to clear those out, which isn’t a pleasure. But worst is having no way to say, “I know this person but I don’t want to be linked to them. No hard feelings, but there’s simply no point to it for me.”
What too many social networking sites ignore is hierarchy, when the business world is all about hierarchy and status. Most of the invitations I get are from people who have worked for me or would like to sell something to me. Some come from colleagues and friends, but I would stay in touch with them anyway by e-mail so LinkedIn does nothing for us (and I can’t even buy them a virtual drink). And if I want to connect with someone I have worked for or want to sell something to, I’m certainly going to do something more significant than send one of those tedious and generic invitations!
I have a very successful friend who can’t make head or tail of why anyone of any significance would sign up for one of these services; when he gets invitations to connect he simply presses ‘delete.’ I sometimes think I should do the same – except that I’m trying to figure out how to adapt these systems to something that more mirrors more closely the way we really relate to and connect with one another. I connect via LinkedIn because many of my friends are there and as research, but going there is like stopping at the gas station, not lingering at a coffee shop or over a Gibson at Pearl’s.