LinkedIn Lunatics: Have Attempts at Authenticity on LinkedIn Gone Too Far?

UPDATED: July 2, 2024
PUBLISHED: July 3, 2024
A businessman in a full suit and tie frolics across the beach with his laptop like a LinkedIn lunatic

“I proposed to my girlfriend this weekend. Here’s what it taught me about B2B sales…” 

The post came to me as a Facebook screenshot with the caption, “Meanwhile on LinkedIn” and I had to look it up immediately because I had never seen a post that was so on brand for the popular professional networking site. I needed to make sure that it was real—and indeed, I found the post by LinkedIn user Bryan Shankman

The eye-catching opener was followed by a multi-paragraph essay explaining the customer journey through the dating process from “prospecting” to “closing” the deal, complete with emoji bullet points. Throughout the essay, Shankman’s now fiancée (referred to as “the prospect”) is treated to a “demo” complete with “getting their hands on the product.” 

The LinkedIn Lunatics

Of course, the post went viral. One commenter wrote, “This is the most LinkedIn thing I have ever LinkedIn” with a response by someone stating that they would like to “LinkOut.” And a member of the LinkedIn Lunatics subreddit shared the post with the title, “I think I’m done with LinkedIn.”

I’ve become a lot more active on LinkedIn over the last four or so years as my career has taken some twists that require just a little bit more networking. I’d like to say that I was surprised by this gentleman’s willingness to exploit one of the most intimate moments of his life to generate leads, but the truth is, many LinkedIn lunatics seem to have an “all-in” energy when it comes to tying identity to career.

Navigating the entanglement of personal and professional brands 

Our entanglements with our professional identities can be a fine line to walk. In many ways, what we do for work is part of who we are. In some cases, showing up authentically in the professional world can be a smart career move. Our career journeys, our milestones can inspire others or catch the eye of a potential client who is looking for someone just like us. 

Dr. Kyle Elliott, Ed.D., is a tech career coach and the owner of Kyle Elliott Consulting. He works with senior managers and executives in Silicon Valley to help them find jobs and then navigate these jobs with strong communication and confidence. 

“There’s a lot of people who encourage authenticity, but then sometimes it’s too much,” says Elliott. “I think there’s a way to share things that’s natural and authentic and aligns with your brand without just trying to force an appointment.” 

In some cases, you may want to share adversity that you’ve experienced, but Elliott also recommends that you check your intentions when you do this. 

“So sometimes we just share this trauma to share it but [without] really focusing on the positive,” says Elliott. “People don’t need to know as much about the event. Rather, here’s the lessons and here’s what I learned.”

As more platforms allow people to monetize, social media audiences have become more skeptical. 

“People see through that, nowadays,” says Elliott.

Representation matters 

Although Elliott found Shankman’s LinkedIn post to be somewhat forced and contrived, he’s not entirely against sharing personal moments professionally. In fact, he shared his own proposal on LinkedIn. 

“I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” says Elliott. “I just want people to know that love is love and to see a gay couple on LinkedIn who are successful and have careers.” 

When young, aspiring professionals see people who are successful in their careers who are similar to them, it’s motivating and affirms that yes, these career choices are available to them. Representation is important, especially for communities that are still underrepresented in the corporate world. 

“It’s kind of hard to dream if you don’t see anyone who looks like you or lives like you in that role,” says Elliott.  “So I share stuff about me and my partner, for example. So people say, ‘oh, you can be successful in your career and have a good life.’”

Don’t be one of the LinkedIn lunatics

But working to live authentically or find real connections through LinkedIn doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Earlier this year, there was a flurry of media articles and chatter around a survey that found that many people are using LinkedIn to find dating partners

In theory, it’s not a bad idea. If you’re looking to meet someone who has a lot in common with you, being able to review their resume before a first date could be a very effective way to gauge compatibility. And connections often develop when you regularly message someone who shares similar interests. How many people have met someone at a conference? 

But approaching someone who is not looking for that on the platform is akin to catcalling and is likely to give them the ick. 

Also, sliding into someone’s messages on LinkedIn to try to sell them something is another behavior that is often unwelcome, especially when you relentlessly pester them about whatever it is that you’re selling. Most of us know at this point that anyone offering a “short call” has a motive behind it, which is usually to take your money. 

Make your time on LinkedIn meaningful

For as much smack as I talk about the culture, I still use LinkedIn. I actually wish I had engaged with the community sooner: It helps me stay on top of innovations in my reporting beat, and it’s also presented a great opportunity to connect with people in the journalism and technology community. 

LinkedIn has also given me a lot of examples of how not to behave when I’m looking to build my own personal brand. I don’t doubt that Mr. Shankman probably found some leads from his viral post, but is it worth it if you have to be the butt of the joke? 

To get the most out of the opportunities the networking site offers, the best strategy is to show up authentically and find meaningful ways to contribute to the conversations that are important to you.

Photo by Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB/Shutterstock.com