It started with a simple request from someone I knew: Would I like to connect on LinkedIn?
Yes, I would. This person works in an industry (Sports Marketing/Education) that merges well with my own (Writing/Editing for a national sports organization). By all means, let’s use this online tool to connect and possibly work together.
I’m taken to a page that has a long list of people, some of whom I know. These would be the contacts of my newest LinkedIn contact (the Sports Marketing/Education contact). But there are also many people I don’t know, probably because they’re contacts of contacts. In other words, they are strangers to me. Without doing research on each one, I’m quite sure I don’t want to connect with them professionally at this time.
I click “Skip” and move on to another screen – of more people I might want to connect with. “Skip” again…
But something happened along the way. Perhaps it was the fact that I was using my mobile phone with its small screen and risk of mis-clicking. Perhaps I misread something. Undoubtedly the problem was between the keyboard and the chair, because whatever I clicked has produced a maelstrom, an avalanche, a deluge of emails from LinkedIn saying:
“[Person’s name] has accepted your invitation. See [Person’s] connections, experience and more…”
LinkedIn is a useful tool. It’s not simply a Facebook wannabe for business or professional purposes, because it’s not about being a social connector. Used strategically, LinkedIn helps people find jobs, share important professional information and join forums for discussion and education.
I thought that was exactly how I was using it, too. Apparently not.
Because while trying to navigate a path through LinkedIn – I thought, carefully and strategically – I got caught. (I would say “tricked” or “duped”, but that sounds a bit too nefarious).
No, you know what? It was somewhat nefarious. This is the dark side of online platforms, social or otherwise. Somewhere in their clever design, they have a way of sucking you in and making you agree to things you really didn’t intend to agree to – Facebook privacy settings being an excellent example. Be very careful what you click – or don’t click. (That drunken photo from Sara’s bachelorette party just went viral, sorry!)
I thought LinkedIn was safer. I was wrong, and the bottom line is I goofed and I now have an unending list of new and not professionally helpful connections – invited by me – piling up in my Inbox.
But LinkedIn made it very easy for me to fail. Consider yourself warned.