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LinkedIn Insecurity: The Toxic Side of LinkedIn in the Age of Hustle Culture
Much like we see only the rainbow on people’s Instagram stories and not the gloomy rainy days preceding it, LinkedIn too is an amalgamation of successes.
14 December, 2021

I close my mail tab after receiving the second rejection mail in the week – distressed, tired, questioning the conundrum of the lengthy application process only to open LinkedIn and read another success story. Another promotion, another First, another super-mom juggling work and family, accolades, certificates and an incessant barrage of winners flash on my screen as I try to pep-talk myself out of another failure. 

With over 722 million members, LinkedIn is the go-to place for job seekers across the world. As of January 2021, there were 57 million companies and 15 million job openings listed on the platform. Brimming with opportunities and exposure, LinkedIn has undoubtedly changed the way the professional community works. It has created a level playing ground but also given a wide window for self-projection and propagated the brand new idea of ‘hustle culture’. With the constant need to outdo the rest, catch the employers’ attention and promote one’s “brand,” I believe, we, as a society, have conveniently found another dimension to go about our rat race. A new rat race characterized by keywords and algorithms. 

Just like every other social media platform, LinkedIn too is a summation of what its members put out there for the public. Much like we see only the rainbow on people’s Instagram stories and not the gloomy rainy days preceding it, LinkedIn too is an amalgamation of successes. While there is nothing wrong in all of it, the problem arises when we aren’t the main characters but the bystanders witnessing our peers walk past us in their lives. 

Social comparison is common in every walk of life. But when others’ achievements are packaged in regular bite-sized posts it gives rise to what is called the “LinkedIn Insecurity”. Comparison takes place every time one opens the app and every time one is asked to ‘Congratulate’ someone. Others’ journeys become the benchmark leading to anxiety, depleting self-worth, feeling of inadequacy and as the name suggests insecurity. It leads to the constant lingering feeling of not being good enough and not doing enough, thereby making it inconspicuously toxic.

The internet is filled with casually tossed terms like these, “LinkedIn Fatigue”, “LinkedIn Depression” with several anecdotes of professionals owing their dwindling self worth to the platform. While there isn’t any concrete research highlighting this exact correlation, there are a lot of studies that outline the same for social media platforms in general. A paper put out by the American Psychology Association states how the people using Facebook most often have poorer self-esteem due to upward social comparison on social media. Now when it comes to a platform which is solely dedicated to one’s professional life, I believe this ill-effect is only heightened. Competition transcends beyond the walls of the organization and even borders almost making it feel like Shakespeare’s ‘All the worlds a stage and all men and women merely players.’. Playing the game of constantly having to outperform the rest, prove one’s employable worth and be at the end of being informed every time these players hit a goal in the big, professional stage of life, through a single ping of the notification.   

LinkedIn in the end is a market place and, like any other market, the rules of demand and supply run the place. It is the competition to be the ‘best fit,’ the yearning to be a formidable candidate, the survival of the fittest.

But we humans are not products, we are a lot more than what our profiles are capable of showing. We are a culmination of experiences no set of keywords is capable of projecting. Then how is it that we maintain our sanity while trying to land our dream job? How can the platform which is meant to be the building blocks to our career not be a constant source of demotivation? How do we not lose ourselves in the attempt of outdoing the rest?  Knowing where others are in their journey is undoubtedly essential and inevitable. But at what point do we need to stop consuming content about other people’s lives? At what point does awareness become detrimental and ignorance truly blissful? 

So after all is there any solution to it? Perhaps not, it is the flip side of the coin, a necessary evil. The onus is on us to identify the toxicity and make the most of the rest, shutting out the unnecessary clutter. The problem is not the platform but what we make out of it. So take a break, soak the sun, enjoy your professional journey without peer pressure, while I go and add this article to my ‘Featured Publications’ on LinkedIn and wait for the world to laud me.

2nd year Economics and Management student at King's College London

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