I nodded along with pretty much every single word of this impassioned piece by Aaron Towle about why he finally gave LinkedIn the ol’ heave-ho. Having come very close to the same decision myself recently, I found myself agreeing with every single word he wrote.
I can even add a couple of major complaints of my own to his list. There are small annoyances, such as the soi-disant “LinkedIn police” who constantly try to bully others, insisting they can’t post certain types of content based on nothing but their own nonsensical opinions and inflated self-regard. (“Politics doesn’t belong on LinkedIn!” Hmmm, perhaps you could tell that to the platform’s former CEO Jeff Weiner, who four years ago was constantly and personally shilling for Hillary on his platform.) Aaron mentions censorship, but the de-platforming that’s been happening goes far beyond that.
LinkedIn has simply deleted the accounts of certain people who persisted in posting perfectly respectful content that ran counter to the platform’s preferred narrative.
Aaron correctly pointed out that the tech giants are bloodsuckers feeding off the content we create. He’s absolutely right. We’re both customers and suppliers. I actually don’t mind the owners of a platform making money off my clicks. There’s no business, after all, that’s altruistic; they all take their cut. What I do mind about the tech giants is how they do it with a thumb on the scale–how they make it harder for me to succeed because my personal opinions don’t match theirs. Add that to their outrageous behavior regarding censorship and de-platforming, and we’re being abused as both customers and suppliers.
But there’s so much that’s good on LinkedIn too. I’ve built a network I couldn’t possibly have in any other forum I know about. I have contacts ranging from plant floor workers to welders and machinists to entrepreneurs and CEOs, along with journalists and academics and historians, artists and authors and engineers, PR people and HR people, and on and on and on. Sure, I could go to individual websites and get individual newsletters and eventually reach all these folks, but who has the time? They’re all right there on LinkedIn.
Some of those contacts I now count as friends, too, and we hop on the phone to chat about pretty much every topic under the sun. If all my friends were local to me in my own little part of our country, there’s no way I’d be able to discuss a fraction of the topics I routinely chat about with more distant pals. Deep knowledge is distributed far and wide.
It would be interesting, too, to count how many of the nations of the world I don’t have a LinkedIn contact in. Mongolia, Nigeria, Paraguay, Madagascar, New Zealand, and Ukraine are all accounted for, to name just a very few off the top of my head. Heck, I’ve even had my manufacturing writing published in my ancestral homeland of Poland thanks to a contact on this platform.
Despite the foolishness of the aforementioned “LinkedIn police” who insist on this topic or that topic doesn’t belong, the discussions there cover every subject under the sun, which I applaud heartily. As a guy with very wide-ranging interests, that gives me the opportunity to jump in on some exchanges that I’d certainly never experience in my non-digital world. Heck, who would have guessed that my series of posts sharing the 40-year-old episodes of economist Milton Friedman’s PBS series Free to Choose would get thousands upon thousands of views and foster a rich and robust dialog?
Finally, I’d certainly be remiss to ignore that my status as a for-real writer came from right here on LinkedIn. A very low-key request that a contact of mine shared, posted by a contact of his, caught my eye a few years back. The author of the post had a client who was looking for someone to write magazine-length articles about manufacturing and gave her email address for anyone interested. It sounded like it was right up my alley, so I sent a note. A few emails, some writing samples, and a chat on the phone later, I became a Forbes contributor. Later, similar contacts led me here to BIZCATALYST 360°. That has been an unbelievable blessing.
So, Aaron: while I fully understand your disconnecting, I remain torn–and for now I remain on. I can certainly say that a big reason is that the thousands of good people I’ve met here on LinkedIn should outweigh the few horrible people who are increasingly bent on squelching the ideas and thoughts of people like me. But those horrible people wield enormous power, and if things continue the way they’ve been trending, I think eventually I’ll be forced to do the only thing I can do to push back: remove myself from their platform, just as you did. I hope the leaders at LinkedIn get their shit together before then. As far as I know, the current CEO, Ryan Roslansky, has remained completely silent about the censors he’s employing, despite growing calls to address the matter. That doesn’t give me a lot of hope.
For all the reasons I mention above, I’d hate terribly to have to disconnect like you did, Aaron. But there are limits to the extent to which I’ll submit myself to the abuses of a destructive claque of ignorant fools, no matter how otherwise good their platform is.