Friday, April 18, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

The rural life : Linked in or creeped out?

Social media platforms are getting…icky. They’re an entity in themselves, stalking you with “friendly” messages about people you might want to connect with or actions you might want to take to raise your profile in the world.

I dislike them. I’m a member of both Facebook and LinkedIn, the latter a Facebook-like site for professionals seeking to connect. I belong for work purposes, but I’m not active on either site. In the case of Facebook, I explained in this column three years ago why I wasn’t a fan. For a natural-born introvert like me, Facebook is something of a nightmare. It’s mainly a huge forum for small talk, and though there’s nothing wrong with small talk, it’s something I’m not comfortable doing.

Even worse for me is the realization that your small talk — or whatever you put up on Facebook, including photos — is going out to who-knows-who, ultimately. (Yes, I know I’m nominally in control of who gets added to my friend list, and that I can limit access to certain parts of Facebook by specifying friends only. But once you start adding friends, the constant and uncomfortable pressure to continue adding becomes hard to resist. Soon your stuff is being viewed by friends of friends of friends who are now somehow your friends, too.)

LinkedIn, I thought when I joined, was different. It existed mainly to enable professionals within a field to find and connect for career purposes. Then I began getting prods from LinkedIn similar to those Facebook uses to hustle you into more involvement.

First came the “do you know” messages.

“Jenny, do you know Heidi, Julie and 10 other connections? Staying in touch can help you in your career, so why not connect with these people we think you know?”

In the beginning it was apparent how LinkedIn had figured out that I probably know these folks. We were all in magazine publishing and had mutual connections.

Lately, however, the offerings have begun to feel creepy. They’re both more apt (yes, I do indeed know these people) and more disturbing (how do you know I know them?). That they’ve zeroed in on a fellow editor as a possible connection makes sense. But a casual acquaintance from my nonworking life? A neighbor I barely know? Someone I had limited contact with 10 years ago?

Apart from viewing my e-mail, I can’t figure out how LinkedIn got these names. And of course they don’t view my e-mail.

Or do they? (These days, who knows.)

LinkedIn also sends me endorsement notifications. Endorsements are similar to Facebook’s “likes,” only they focus on a person’s skills or expertise. For example, someone might endorse me for the skill of writing articles. When this happens — and LinkedIn will inform you of it immediately — are you supposed to acknowledge it in some way? Reciprocate? Add these endorsements to your official profile, as LinkedIn insists will be invaluable to your career?

Were I inclined to accept these endorsements, the knowledge that LinkedIn will broadcast the fact that I’ve done so holds me back. For example, the site notifies me whenever any one of my “connections” does anything to his or her LInkedIn page — updates the profile information, accepts an endorsement, endorses someone else, and so on. I don’t want similar information about me going out to anyone — connected to me or otherwise — unless I do it myself. Period.

All of this busybodying pales, however, compared to what I’ve learned about LinkedIn most recently. It was in an e-mail urging me to upgrade to LinkedIn Premium. One of the benefits of the upgrade is that I’d be able to see who has viewed my profile in the last 30 days. Not because those people had indicated they wanted me to know they’d been looking, but simply because they had looked. LinkedIn would “tell” on them.

How icky is that?

My first thought — apart from creepy! — was I’ll never go anywhere on that site again! Why would I, knowing my movements will be monitored and reported on?

Then I thought maybe the problem was just me, being a dinosaur. So I Googled “LinkedIn creepy” to see if anyone else had had this thought — and got a bazillion hits. For example, on Interactually.com, digital marketing consultant David Veldt concludes, after considerable research, that “LinkedIn is by far the creepiest social network.” In his opinion, the site “has slipped under the radar when it comes to privacy controls and transparency.”

Then again, I also found hits like “Why It’s Not ‘Creepy’ To ‘Stalk’ People on LinkedIn” and even “Effective (And Non-Creepy) Ways to Stalk People on LinkedIn” — this last one from Forbes.com, no less.

So I don’t know…maybe it is just me. For now, though, I think I’ll remain linked out.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer, a biweekly columnist with the Mountain Democrat, isn’t afraid of e-mail and loves hearing from readers. Contact her at jfmfeedback@earthlink.net.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is an award-winning journalist and author with three published books to her credit. Currently she is a senior editor with Horse & Rider magazine. Jennifer lives in rural Latrobe with her husband, Hank; their daughter, Sophie Elene; and the family’s assorted animals.
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