32. Where We Pretend That It’s All Awesome

Yesterday I went to Linkedin.   I really hate Linkedin.  No other online experience makes me feel more inadequate and unsuccessful as a few minutes perusing the apparently limitless success and achievement that everyone else is living on Linkedin.  My hatred is only empowered by the realization these are the exact feelings of self-doubt that make the platform successful.  Anyway, there I was in my email and I read a message of hope cleverly manufactured by Linkedin itself.    I read an email that enthusiastically pointed out that other humans had looked at my profile.  I took the bait.  A dark place in my subconscious that all social media magically has access to longed to see who indeed thought that my profile was worthy of their time.  

It is probably no surprise that I do not pay for my account. As a non-payer I must wade through the purgatory of almost-useful information laid before me like a menu at Arby’s.  There is information, but just like the food at Arby’s, it’s not really what I want.  The differences between linkiedin and Arby’s are many, but one of them is that Linkedin dangles the promise of a heaven beyond this purgatory and all you need to do is to give them money.  Arby’s on the other hand seems firmly committed to mediocrity and does not operate under the rules of capitalism.   If you don’t know what Arby’s is, it’s a fast food chain in the US that is so unpopular that the only reasonable explanation for it’s existence is that it is a front for the Illuminati to funnel secret funding to the sand people that traveled to our planet in the 1970’s and are currently creating tunnels and colonizing the Earth’s mantle.  

Just before I came to the familiar realization that I was duped once again, I noticed a clue about someone who viewed my profile.  The clue had been thrown to me over the paywall and it was that a visitor to my page “worked at a *cooperativa”.  In italy, a cooperativa is a business managed by the people who work there.  Aha!   I know who that is!  I win the day!  Despite digitally withholding the name of this “cooperativa worker”, I was able to perform some linking of my own in my brain.  I recalled recently sending my resumè to a cooperativa in Bologna that was looking for potential collaborators.   Solving this first clue, my inner detective, once again subconsciously guided by algorithms, led me to the realization that the person who read my resumè, then browsed their way over to my linkedin profile.  I then realized that my profile, was indeed out of date.  Woe is me, my profile has been hemorrhaging a falsity about my professional life for months now.  My employer has a new name.  Our study abroad program, in an attempt to be proactive took the extra time “gifted” to us by the pandemic to re-brand in order to better represent what we do.  We thought up a new name, made a new website, and even updated all of our social media accounts.  Despite holding the honorable and high responsibility of being an admin of our Linkedin page, I had failed to update my employer and position on my own Linkedin page.  

I pondered the impact that my error may have had on my current state and came to the conclusion that my life had not been further derailed by my errant dissemination of misinformation, but that it would probably be a positive thing to rectify the situation.  A few quick ctrl+c’s and ctrl+v’s later, my profile was updated.

Linkedin recognized the magnitude of this new information and immediately shared the update with the world of my connections.  Since I don’t pay, the world outside of my connections doesn’t know that indeed a wrong has been made right. There’s nothing wrong with sharing an update I suppose, but the story that Linkedin tells is not a truthful story and that is where I take serious issue.  Minutes after I updated things I began to receive congratulatory messages, as if I had actually achieved something.  Linkedin made it look like I had been promoted.  My own father, who I did not know was actually on Linkedin, congratulated me for my achievement.  This got me wondering a few things. The first was, what in the hell was my father, a retired doctor who is currently (and admirably) pursuing his lifelong dream of being a cowboy, doing on Linkedin?  Is that where cowboys congratulate each other for videos that they post of themselves flawlessly roping cows?   The second thing that was highlighted by the flood of “likes” and congrats was just how false this whole thing is.  Thanks Dad, and to all of you for your congratulations, but I didn’t do anything.  I don’t want to sound self defeatist, but I don’t deserve your laudations in this case.  I just changed some wording and Linkedin took the liberty to tell everyone that I started a new job and that I was moving up the metaphorical ladder of success.  It’s not true.  Sure, I’m doing my best to move in a forward direction, but no specific achievement was made yesterday.  

Linkedin steers us in a direction of believing that everything out there is fantastic and that everyone is just totally crushing it.  Then, naturally we wonder whether we’re crushing it enough or whether we could crush even more.  I don’t think that I am alone in experiencing doubt when I open up all of those important notifications.  I see all of you out there living your best lives and wonder if I am indeed doing my best.  I see  a bunch of things in my life that don’t line up with the imaginary narratives of success that Linkedin whispers to me.   Hell, compared to some of your profiles and the shit that you’re sharing, my actual reality looks like a fucking dumpster fire now that I really think about it.  

I recently moved to Bologna from Siena, the result of a pre-pandemic, family based decision.   Predictably it has not been the smoothest-of-transitions amid the actual pandemic.  While I am still working for the study abroad program of which I am a co-founder, I have been forced to look for new ways to support myself.  My wife currently holds the burden of supporting our family and pays the rent while I find myself either on the couch ranting about Linkedin or planning English lessons for children that provide almost enough for me to be able to buy groceries once a week.  The field of study abroad is not among those fields that have increased their earnings by the billions in recent months.  

I’m doing my best to hold on to the hope that there will be a future in which I will once again be able to make achievements worth sharing.  I know that a lot your realities are not easy right now.  I’m sorry, but I can tell that not all of you are not actually crushing it 24/7 despite your apparent online enthusiasm.  So, if you happened upon the message fed to you by Linkedin that I am out here making significant professional moves, know that I’m struggling too.  If the story that Linkedin made up about me made you feel like your life is slightly inferior, then please, please don’t worry, it’s not.  You’re probably experiencing just as much good and bad as me and everyone else right now.  If things aren’t great right now, that’s pretty understandable.  It’s ok, and don’t let the algorithms make you think anything else. 

3 thoughts on “32. Where We Pretend That It’s All Awesome

  • Made my day with this, Mike. My LinkedIn account may not yet have the results of the 1974 York Central Student Council Elections. It made me remember something I saw demonstrated with teenagers years ago. The presenter put up a numbered 10 step progression about sex that began with holding hands and ended with genital penetration. He passed out a blue card to the kids and asked them to anonymously report how far they had gotten. He then passed out a red card and asked the students to guess how far, on average, their peers in the room had gotten. He collected and averaged the numbers. There was a 5 point gap. They were convinced that they way behind their peers. It’s amazing how technology can magnify and mass produce what was screwed up about us to begin with. Great piece of writing. Can I share it with my students?

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