It’s not me, it’s you. Nothing personal, of course. It’s always been you.
I know what you’re thinking; we’ve been going steady some time now. The first few months were rough- I could post about corporate responsibility and diversity as much as I wanted to no avail. Try harder, you’d say. Three likes. Four likes.
“Diversity- it’s up to the boss?“
you’d laugh. “That’s child’s play. Richard Branson wouldn’t put me through this junk. He’s fun.”
I’d post questionnaires. No one would respond. “Why is it important to be honest with your employees?” I’d ask, hoping vainly that one of my seven followers would answer. They didn’t. “What a desperate cry for help,” you’d say. “No wonder you’ve got no connections. By the way, can’t stick around. Bill Gates is logging on at three.”
“But it’s half past eight in the morning?” I’d say, pushing the refresh button like a maniac.
Still, I persisted. I had to learn your ways, understand when you were most active, work out what I could do to provoke some response, any response. “Acknowledge me,” I’d beg, updating my Experience section to demonstrate how my inviolable grasp of client engagement had begun at the tender age of 16 with my summer job at the abattoir. “Good at cleaning blood off shoes.” LinkedIn will love that. Start early, enterprising right out of the womb, all that jazz. Yessir. I hoped you’d see it, admire me for it. It brought me a few connections, albeit mostly within the offal community. I was overjoyed; it was the first time I’d impressed you. After all, what else did I have to offer you that others couldn’t?
Our dates were always terse. You’d tell me about your other relationships; ‘followers’, you called them- a little strange, but so be it. I’d pretend it didn’t matter, that I wasn’t so invested as to think we were at least a little bit exclusive. “I was out with Jeff the other day,” you’d say.
“Really?” I’d ask.
“Mm. His new boat is so big that he’s having the port of Rotterdam dismantle this historic bridge just to get it out to sea.”
I’d try to appear unbothered by it all. “He’s overcompensating,” I’d say. “I’ve seen his rocket.” So what if I cried in the bathroom? You were tearing me apart.
In the end, there was only so much talk of Jeff Bezos’ priapic majesty I could take. We split up for a while. What’s more, I admit, there were others. Romance was dead, they told me- why not live a little bit in the meantime? So I did. Twitter and I just didn’t work out. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation in 140 characters. We couldn’t make it through a movie, let alone go to dinner; “I’m going outside for a retweet,” she’d say. I wouldn’t see her for four hours. “Got distracted, whoops XD kjkjkjsksksakdfhzre.” she’d laugh. We didn’t last too long.
Facebook wasn’t much better, always trying to get into my privacy settings. “Look at this picture of Jesus’ face superimposed onto a sunshine with a motivational quote,” he’d tell me. Bless, I thought. I like a devoted man. “Now give me the last three digits on the back of your debit card.”
That was over quickly.
So, there I was, back with you again. Just a girl, standing in front of a corporate social networking site, asking it to love her. I was wiser by this point, more mature. I knew what they said about office romance- that it was doomed, that it would never work, that it could never work. But you were the only one for me. We were Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, listening to the sweet refrain of that classic corporate symphony ‘Your Call Is Very Important To Us, Please Hold’, the early morning sunlight streaming through our windows as we wondered what would become of us.
There’ll always be doubters, but I can spot a love story at twenty paces, and I’ll bet my last connection that this is one of them. After all, you’re different from the others; you might not act like you need me, but I know you do. What we’ve got is a two-way thing: you even let me send my CV to other people. Then again, you know I won’t stray; who else do I have? Instagram bullying me into degrading myself with pathetic dances? Whatever the hell it is that happens in the byzantine bowels of Tiktok?
That brings me to what I wanted to say. See, LinkedIn, I’ve made a few connections now, scored a few followers. 10,000 of them to be exact. Granted, I know you still see other people. Many, many people. And I know that we don’t talk enough and that you must get this all the time, but I’ll be damned if I won’t say it:
I love you.
Yes, I know I’m small-fry. Hell, I’m probably not even in your rolodex.
But you’ve looked after me, put me in touch with brilliant people that I never would have met otherwise, given me a like-minded network of professionals with a will to change things and make the corporate world a better, more inclusive place. And for that? I’ll be forever grateful. Without you, I’d be 10,000 friends poorer, 10,000 times less colourful, 10,000 steps further away from being the innovative leader into whom you’ve helped me develop. So, here’s to you, LinkedIn. You may not have a real heart. Or for that matter a mind, body, or indeed any physical manifestation outside of an office in Sunnyvale, California. But, by God, you’ve got my soul. (Not to mention my entire roster of business contacts.)
As I said before, LinkedIn: it’s not you, it’s me.
Frankly, we’re both difficult. Sometimes, it’s just not healthy; we spend too much time together, endlessly scrolling ourselves into an elitist spiral of self-doubt. You make me anxious to the point of neurosis. What’s more, some of your friends are downright toxic. And yet, despite everything that’s happened between us, I can’t live without you. It’s easy to say, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” but you know that I won’t. Ours is a love-hate relationship. We may not be perfect for each other, but you’ve given me the best gift anyone could ever ask for: a living, breathing network of 10,000 connections. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Happy Valentine’s Day, LinkedIn, old pal. See you back here for 20,000.
(Authors: Caroline Harth with Anna Hanlon)