Maybe it’s just me, but I have a growing distaste for some of the posts I am seeing these days on LinkedIn. And it’s probably not the personal opinion “Facebook-style” posts you are thinking about. LinkedIn is a social media platform that has undeniably become a leading business networking platform. In recent years there has been a morphing of sorts, with more personal and political views making their way onto people’s timelines and “walls.” While I would agree that much of this belongs on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, those aren’t the contributions I am speaking about today.
This may surprise, and even annoy you, but my pet peeve is this: Not every good thing you do needs to wind up on LinkedIn. We know you are a wonderful person. You don’t need to shout it from the digital rooftop. It is quite possible that the very promotion of your good deed denigrates the act, and risks turning it into a less-than-admirable self-promotion tool.
This really came to light for me with a post that crossed my desktop PC a few weeks ago. A young (young, unfortunately, is now relative) woman attending a retirement party for a former male supervisor posted a picture of herself with the man. In her post, she hailed him as a terrific mentor who gave her tremendous skills and taught her how to be the stunningly successful person she is today. She effusively spoke of his lifelong commitment to selflessly helping people such as her become spectacularly prosperous in their careers and future endeavors. She heaped tremendous praise on this person, telling the world how he helped make her what she was today.
The problem I had with this was simple. In all her praise and glory, she never identified who he was. She didn’t include his name in the post. She didn’t have to. You see, the post wasn’t about him at all.
It was all about her. He was merely a prop for the greater story of her remarkable success.
I’ve seen other posts along the same vein. There was the person who gave $20 to a wretched down-on-their-luck vagrant and then took a picture with them to post so the world would know they are kind and generous souls who help wretched down-on-their-luck vagrants. There was one where a person assisted an otherwise helpless young ethnically diverse male whose car broke down on the way to a critical job interview, only pausing in their efforts to take and post a picture with him so the universe will know they are indeed a good person who helped an otherwise helpless young ethnically diverse male whose car broke down on the way to a critical job interview. In the latter example, the person made sure to point out the young man was ethnically diverse, so I suppose that gains them extra “See, I’m not a racist” points on the LinkedIn good-o-meter.
In both cases, I applaud their sense of civic duty, and willingness to help others in need. I am less enthusiastic when that good deed takes on the air of a “look at me, I’m wonderful” moment on LinkedIn.
Certainly, there is a place for positive news and promotional efforts on the platform. I participate in those myself. My own company, WorkCompCollege.com, posts pictures of checks going to charitable organizations on behalf of our faculty. Those posts help promote the non-profit organizations, and are, quite frankly, good for our business. They also are a public acknowledgement of the generosity of others. But the point, I suppose, is that those announcements are business oriented, through and through. At least that is in line with what LinkedIn was established to facilitate. They aren’t personal “look at me” glory moments.
It’s possible I’ve done something like that about which I complain, but I can’t think of an instance where that would be the case. Just last week I helped a little old lady across the street. It took me 15 minutes, and she put up quite a struggle – turns out she was waiting for a bus and didn’t want to go across the street. The old bird had admirable strength; I’ll give her that. But I didn’t make her pose for the camera so I could show you all how good a person I am.
Besides, you already knew that, so there is no need.
Personal acts of kindness and charity are sometimes best left personal. Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts was famously quoted as saying “Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” It is a very true statement. And when you try to make someone look, that potentially brings your character into question.
Just ask that highly successful young woman and her old mentor what’s-his-name.