Everyone on LinkedIn is absolutely crushing it — or so it seems

Gene Marks
4 min readAug 27, 2023

Ever notice how fabulous everyone is on LinkedIn?

(This column originally appeared in The Guardian)

“Honored to have shared the stage with such great thought leaders!” posts one keynote speaker, implying that she’s also a great thought leader because why else would she be sharing the stage with other great thought leaders?

“I recently participated in a charity event to help end substance abuse,” an entrepreneur who literally calls himself a “visionary” in his profile alerted his following — who knew LinkedIn would solve an issue that has dogged mankind since Noah got drunk?

“I can’t help but notice 90% of the leaders attending this conference are men and we need to involve more women,” another male “tech leader” and “visionary” (yes, another one) bravely shared recently — instantly absolving himself of all misogynistic and patriarchal behavior, past, present or future.

We all hear about the hate spewing from Twitter — or X, as we must now call it — and the negative bullying and psychological harm of platforms like Instagram and TikTok. But if you really want to get blue, spend time on LinkedIn. Everyone — and I mean everyone — on LinkedIn is doing fantastic, awesome and amazing. Even the unemployed — and I know a few — somehow have thousands of followers, display a profile photo of themselves speaking to a stadium of adoring fans and claim they’re experts on everything from #innovation to #futurism and #ecosystem. I’m not sure what any of that means but damn! Impressive.

I hate LinkedIn. But I need LinkedIn. As the owner of a business that sells products and services to other businesses, I begrudgingly admit that LinkedIn is the only social media platform that makes sense. My customers and prospects may be — for all I know — defending Trump on Truth Social and taunting wild animals on Instagram all while teaching adolescents how to apply makeup on TikTok. But they’re also selling tubes and wire and containers and all sorts of other boring products that make up the core of the US economy and the base of my business. And they’re all on LinkedIn.

So yes, I post my writings on LinkedIn. I comment on other people’s posts (“great story, Bob!”, “inspiring message, Alexis!”, “amazing event, Amanda, so happy to be there!”) and I routinely message customers and prospects (“thanks for connecting, Mike” and “would you be interested in speaking, Kim?”) because it happens to be a good place to generate business so I’m playing the game. But does it also have to be so cringe?

It will be that way as long as the algorithm behind the platform continues to celebrate self-congratulation. As the writer and podcaster Trung Phan recently noted: “When it comes to the cringey content, the LinkedIn algo is doing its job! Too well!”

To its credit, you don’t have to worry about someone calling a Swat team on you just because they want your user name. You can post and comment on business issues and expect that others — even those who disagree — will behave in a mostly professional and rational manner, which is, sadly, a big difference from other social media platforms. LinkedIn groups have few trolls and LinkedIn conversations are more vanilla. That’s because LinkedIn users have less anonymity and because of that the platform forces them to behave like civilized human beings.

And everyone — and I mean everyone — is simply crushing it on LinkedIn. They’re getting promotions. Their products are saving humanity. They’re giving money and time to charities. They’re mentoring, speaking, coaching and advising others. They’re on boards and committees. They’ve got endorsements and recommendations and likes and applauding emojis.

But I know the truth about these people. Because I am one of them. We’re not really crushing it. We’re stressed. We’re worried about money. We’re worried about losing our jobs and our customers. We are tortured by imposter syndrome — maybe we are imposters? We pretend that we like everyone but we don’t. We say that we’re so “happy” and “honored” and “excited” to be participating in all of these business activities when really all we’d like to be doing is anything but.

Should I be more transparent and honest on LinkedIn? Do brands mention that their products cause illness or are inferior to their competitors? Does that VP of sales admit that he’s cheating on his spouse? Does that fabulous corporate speaker disclose that she’s teetering on the edge of personal bankruptcy? Of course not. LinkedIn is not a place to be honest. It’s a place to sell your products, your services and most of all yourself.

Admit that and you’ll feel better about all those fabulous people who are doing so fabulously there. They’re not.

Originally published at https://www.theguardian.com on August 27, 2023.

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Gene Marks

Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA