Thoughts

If LinkedIn Were a Color, It Would Be Beige

Not Corporate Material

Corporate culture makes me queasy.  I worked in corporate settings throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, and I was barely able to tolerate it.  So, I’m acknowledging my substantial bias upfront.

I hate golf.  I don’t like discussing sports.  And though I enjoyed my college experience, I don’t have any deep-rooted passion for my alma mater.  So you’re not going to catch me dressed head-to-toe in school colors on game day trash talking co-workers.  I just don’t care that much.

And where I worked, if you weren’t talking about sports, college rivalries, or tee times, there wasn’t much to talk about.  Except for work, you could always talk about work.

It was all very unfulfilling: I still think back and shudder at how boring and downright pathetic some of these conversations were.

Scene from "Office Space"

You’re Invited to Conform

Then there was the office itself.  Most corporate offices are outfitted with purposefully bland decor: generic artwork, framed motivational posters, neutral tones.

The lighting is invariably of the fluorescent variety.  It casts a stark shade of white/yellow over everyone and everything in the office, perfect for capturing the vaguely ill, washed out look of a doctor’s exam room writ large.

Oh, and the beige.  Don’t get me started on the beige.  It was the color of choice for my particular office’s lobby walls.  And the hallway walls.  And the break room walls.

Sometimes a corner office would spice things up and opt for a rebellious off-white motif.  But most middle-managers dared not buck tradition — they proudly clung to the warm, inoffensive protection that only beige can provide.

And, no need to water the plants here — they’re fake.

A Digital Shade of Beige

Which brings me to LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is the digital extension of this corporate blandness.  Talk about a dull social media platform; it’s completely devoid of personality.  People either create a profile that reads like a sterilized boilerplate resume or they channel their inner Tracy Flick and inflate every accomplishment they’ve ever had.

For instance, a few of my former co-workers were fresh out of college (with no experience to speak of) and proudly took to LinkedIn to designate themselves “VPs of marketing” and “senior social media strategists.”

One of my former bosses went to an executive summer program at Harvard.  And when he came back he was a changed man, ol’ chaps.  He couldn’t update his profile fast enough to let the world know he was now a full-fledged Ivy Leaguer.  “Harvard, Harvard, Harvard.  Hmm, why yes, I went to Harvard, why do you ask?”

And for all those who actively participate in LinkedIn’s ecosystem, it’s hard to resist this lure of rampant self-aggrandizement.  We’re tacitly encouraged to become digital Stepford Wives.

Titles get wildly inflated; skills become exaggerated. Nearly everyone seems like they’re potentially in the running for this year’s Nobel Prize or MacArthur genius grant.  It’s all a bit too over the top.

Now if you’re actively in the job market, that’s fine.  I get it.  You have to play the game, polish up that LinkedIn profile, and hope for the best.  If you’re a recruiter, LinkedIn probably seems like mana from heaven — a smorgasbord of potential clients at your beck and call.

But for the rest of us…

Most profiles blur together, the hyped up credentials become meaningless, the articles are mostly disposable pablum, and it’s hard to get a sense of anyone’s true personality.

It’s the fake plant of social media.

LinkedIn: I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go…

Guy in suit holding box of things from office after getting fired

And since I’m making an effort to simplify my life, both digitally and otherwise, LinkedIn is getting the axe.  Downsized.  Laid off.  We’re parting ways.

It’s just not a very useful or enjoyable platform for me.

I love that I no longer have to think about HR departments, stiff company lunches, or hollow corporate conversations.  I already went through my “beige period.”  And I’m in no hurry to go back.