FOMO. The acronym that explains why you’re on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is rubbish, we all know it. But we can’t stop using it.

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We fear there are benefits of using LinkedIn that we’ll miss out on.  Prospect theory calls it loss aversion, but the kids call it FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

Humans are wired to hate losses more than they enjoy gains. This is not strictly rational, and it means we make some bad choices.

Haunting LinkedIn might be among them.

LinkedIn is
At some level, we know LinkedIn is not worth it

I mainly visit LinkedIn when I get a reminder from the website. Maybe someone has looked at my profile, or maybe someone wants to be a connection.

I hover there for a few minutes, wondering what it all means. Sometimes I do get a phone call from a person that LinkedIn said was looking at my account. But would they have called me anyway?

LinkedIn has to taunt you to get you to network.

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Congratulating people on work anniversaries is an alien concept, but the idea other people are doing it means we wonder if we should too.

LinkedIn plays on our fears that other people are getting ahead of us professionally.

It taps not into our desire to be better people, but our much more powerful fear that we will lose our rank and status.

We also imagine it will cushion our fall should we lose our jobs. In the newspaper industry, redundancy rounds were strongly correlated with LinkedIn connection requests.

It doesn’t hurt that making a LinkedIn account is quick and easy. People probably maintain their LinkedIn like an insurance policy. It’s not costly to have, but it helps manage the anxiety that might come with losing your job.

LinkedIn is the facebook of work. We know facebook doesn’t really help us make friends. So does LinkedIn work as a resumé?

I wrote, a few weeks ago, about how to get a job, and LinkedIn was not the top priority, and – this is important – it was not a substitute for actual networking..

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.44.23 amMaybe LinkedIn is not good for the average guy, but if you’re trying to build a brand, it is awesome. Maybe?

I doubt it. (n=1). For example, LinkedIn scores below even Google+ as a referrer of visitors to my blog.

Of course, there are experts out there shilling for the many powerful strategies you can deploy to make LinkedIn work for you. I don’t doubt that there are ways that work brilliantly for a small percentage of people and firms, but they rely on LinkedIn maintaining a base of slightly nervous users checking in to make sure they’re not missing out.

But this emperor’s new clothes situation is not going to resolve itself with LinkedIn shivering nude and all of us turning away. We’d be too worried that even a nude emperor might be worth our attention.

I may be a LinkedIn skeptic, but I still like to make a new connection as much as the next person. Connect with me here!

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

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