Quit Linkedin

2020-07-14

I recently quit LinkedIn. While I did once find a decent job through a recruiter on the network after putting in the money to go "premium", that is the only positive takeaway from my experience on the network. Plus, I have the impression that I would have found this job anyway had I just done a little more research. Perhaps it was the fact that I had a LinkedIn account that made me overconfident in my ability to find a job and lazy in my research.

Everything else on that network seems to be for the worse. I have experienced the same kind of addiction and mental hijacking that is typical of the other major social networks, where sharing one or two posts quickly turns into a sequence of compulsive visits to the platform. But even when it comes to what the network is supposedly meant for -- professional connections -- the network just does not seem to add much value. Over the years, it has just become a Facebook with a longer professional section on people's profiles.

What triggered me to quit was the realization that on LinkedIn, you really are the product, however cliche that statement has become these days. When contacted for the Nth time by a recruiter trying to fill a position for a job that they do not understand, I decided to reply positively just this one time out of sheer curiosity. Soon afterwards, a link reached my inbox with an agreement that I just needed to review and sign. To my surprise, the agreement already had all of my professional history and other details filled out for me. In retrospect, this should not have been surprising, but it really made me wonder; when you go to the privacy section of your settings and tailor your public profile so that very little is visible to people outside of your connections, what LinkedIn really means is that your privacy is subject to the other person's status on the network: a recruiter can always pay LinkedIn to see your profile. So much for your privacy.

At this point one could question: but isn't the point of having a profile on LinkedIn to be visible to others? Well, I would like my profile to be visible to recruiters when I am looking for a job, not when I already have one. One should be in control of how much of their profile is visible on the network at any given time. This is of course a naive opinion in retrospect, and I am not sure what bothers me more: how LinkedIn treats your data, or how naive I was in thinking that LinkedIn would be any different than the other social networks.

On LinkedIn, every professional is a product. Recruiters pay money to search and sort through people's professional identity, and they have access to this data irrespective of people's privacy non-settings. In addition, people are also targeted with ads in their feed (why does a professional network need a feed?), just like every other popular social network. If you go to your settings and download your data, you will see a file where LinkedIn stores every single post you liked or shared in history. Another file contains a list of tags or topics that the network has inferred from surveilling your activity to fingerprint your profile and then target you with ads. And mind you, the "AI" is nothing sophisticated: I am a software engineer who is also a gym instructor, so the "AI" naturally inferred that I would be interested in the gimmicks and pseudo-science-promoting gadgets that are devices like Fitbits.

The surveillance-gathered and permanently recorded data was not surprising; after all, LinkedIn really is just a Facebook. What really bothered me is that within the archive of personal data, I found all of my phone contacts. Back in the day, I committed the mistake of giving LinkedIn access to the contacts on my phone so that it could sync them. I did this because I did not know better. What really bothered me upon inspecting the data archive is the realization that when you are prompted to give the application access to your contacts, LinkedIn makes it seem like they want access now to sync your contacts now. What they do not tell you, however, is that what they really do is to store those contacts on their servers forever, without your knowledge or explicit consent. And bear in mind that while the GDPR and CCPA now give you access to your data on those servers (or at least the part of the data that LinkedIn wants you to know about), the contact syncing in the application predates all of those legislations, meaning that it was indeed Linkedin's plan all along to store that data forever; the ability to access your data only came later, and it came not because the company wants it, but because they would rather just not deal with the fines.

So after reviewing my data archive for a few minutes, I decided to delete my account.

Since deleting my account, I have started to pay a lot more attention to my Website. Posts that I would have otherwise shared on LinkedIn subject to the platform's 1000 or so letter count are now full blog posts where I can develop my thoughts with no arbitrary restrictions while building up the one online profile that truly matters. This Website has also undergone major aesthetic changes, as has my PDF resume. With the time that I would otherwise spend on the network mindlessly scrolling through the feed, I can now be more productive and work towards small, personal projects that I can then document and show here. As far as my online profile goes, the change has been for the better. What remains for me to see is how easy it is for me to find the next job. But why is the premise that it should be hard without LinkedIn? Perhaps this is the time I should stop pretending that a social network like LinkedIn is a substitute for the real human and living professional connections that I had neglected so far and build connections that actually matter. This only makes more sense now that I think about it and write this down. How naive have I been! And all while letting my professional identity and privacy be prostituted on an online network.

LinkedIn or LockedIn? Why I deleted my account