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LinkedIn is *NOT* Facebook for Grownups

I’m hustling to get out of town in three hours for the SOLINET Annual Member Meeting, and I have slides that need updating and tweaking, but I heard something last week I need to nip in the bud.

Linkedin is not a Facebook alternative. Linkedin, for those who do not know, “is an online network of more than 20 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries.”

I have an account on Linkedin, and I dutifully update my “network,” approving requests and making sure my profile is up-to-date. But I’m really only on Linkedin just to keep my eye on it.

I am aware that some librarians have proposed that Linkedin is an “alternative” to Facebook. In other words, Linkedin good. Facebook bad. Ok to let librarians and library users on Linkedin. Not ok to let them use Facebook. On the Kubler-Ross social software acceptance scale, for these librarians Linkedin factors in at the “bargaining” stage… they’ll “do” social software, as long as it’s not Facebook (or heaven forbid, MySpace or Livejournal).

(I know libraries that block Facebook. My favorite example is the library that says “no one uses Facebook” and then blocks it anyway. Well, they are correct that their users don’t use it in their library…)

I know professionals who give Linkedin a workout and find it professionally beneficial. But in my book, Linkedin answers the question, “what would Facebook look and feel like if Microsoft had invented it?” It’s chilly, picture-less, and spectral. It feels like some people want work to feel: a disembodied place where Labor is Performed. That’s a soulless way to treat the place we sock away people for 40-80 hours a week.

I realize Facebook has its silly side. After all, I just started a group called “Over Fifty is Facebook-Fabulous.” That’s trivial fun. I also don’t spend a lot of time in Facebook. I ignore actions on Facebook such as sending me “beer,” karma, stuffed beers, or the same dumb video. Once in a while I’ll play a game, but I won’t forward it to my 300+ “friends.” I check in, I tweak my profile, check messages, send a couple out, but I’m not Facebook-obsessed.

But in many ways Facebook feels a lot more like my daily life than Linkedin ever will. On Facebook I can give myself personal context — pictures I like, what I’m doing, my latest blog posts, websites that interest me. I can also see that context. I can share websites and ideas with small and large groups. I can introduce people who can find out much more about the people I’m connecting than Linkedin presents.

I also like that silly stuff happens. It happens at work, doesn’t it? We are a playful species. Adulthood involves knowing when to work and when to play and how to mix the two.

Not everyone I know is on Facebook… but I’ve connected with professionals, family members, and even someone I knew in elementary school. It’s a full environment, not just a slice of Serious Professional Life.

To the librarian who opined that I was unusual for being on Facebook and many of our users aren’t, well, but many of our users are. The fastest growing demographic is users over 25, and I guarantee you that most people I know on Facebook are not high-tech.

I once described two conferences by saying that one had more content but the other was more fun. That wasn’t to dismiss the second; just the opposite, in fact. I would learn more at the second conference. When I am relaxed, happy, and engaged, I’m a sponge for knowledge. Think about your favorite teacher: this person probably had a playful side, or at least radiated joy in his or her subject.

Anyway, to those librarians (and yes, they really exist) who have proposed Linkedin as an “acceptable” alternative to Facebook, ol’ FRL was going to find out sooner or later, and I’m slapping your wrists. Cut it out. Ignore Facebook or jump on board, but I recommend you go directly to the Kubler-Ross “Depression” stage and get it over with.

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  1. Bill Drew wrote:

    Your post says it all. I have an account on LinkedIn and one on FaceBook. LinkedIn is boring and is not Facebook for grownups. One of the reasons I like Facebook is because it is so alive and at time chaotic, just like real life. I am on LinkedIn because it doesn’t cost anything and I wanted to see where it would go. nice post!!

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  2. Caryn wrote:

    I came to Facebook kicking and screaming, and then only because a friend of mine was on maternity leave and desperately bored, and she badgered me into going on. For a long time I did nothing with it. Then I started reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen since high school. Now I go on fairly often, but I do three things: check my friends’ updates, play Scramble (like Boggle) with friends, and play Scrabulous (like Scrabble) with friends. I honestly don’t see how any librarian could have a problem with such a thing. I do acknowledge that I may not be a typical user, but neither are most of my friends who are on Facebook.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  3. Peter Murray wrote:

    I’m one of those who has said LinkedIn is “Facebook for Grownups” — so I’ll accept my wrist-slapping in about six weeks when I we meet up in Anaheim. For me, there is nothing sticky about Facebook. I’ve tried over the years (starting when it was limited to those who could prove they were part of the educational community by having a .edu email address), and I just can’t get into it. Part of it is a remembered history of the awful flexibility it gives users to put animating junk on their personal pages with clashing colors. That was admittedly more prevalent when it first came out than it is now. Another part of my resistance is a desire to spend free time in other sectors of the net. (An introverted nature probably also doesn’t help.) I have not seriously played in Facebook since The Platform capabilities were released; perhaps that would sway my opinion.

    LinkedIn is predictable and functional; I like that in a social networking tool. It has a reasonable stable of features (I don’t use it’s built-in mail function either unless it is the last resort to contact someone in the network) that are growing at a rate that can be easily absorbed by a casual user.

    On the other hand, I once detested Wired Magazine. In particular, what I remember of its hard to read typefaces and color choices. That reminds me a lot of my impressions of Facebook. I’m now an avid reader of Wired; either it has grown up or I’ve become more accepting of silly. Perhaps a little of both. Maybe I’ll come around to Facebook, too — or it will come around to me — or maybe a little of both.

    In any case, you might be interested in a posting on ReadWriteWeb from Monday: LinkedIn vs. Facebook, 6 Months Later. It covers some of the same ground.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  4. I heart facebook. I love throwing sheep at people, I admit (and as my “friends” probably know). I’m not on there to stalk library customers/patrons/users, etc., bcs it’s blocked at work. It’s just fun and linkedin isn’t. (I also do not save the planet with green patches, succumb to zombies, invite 200 friends to find quiz results …)

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  5. Andy Havens wrote:

    I want a Facebook “stuffed beer…” Especially if it’s stuffed with cheese. Mmmm…. cheese filled beer…


    They’re two different things entirely, yes. I would guess that fewer non-professionals (kids, college students, stay-at-home moms, etc) use LinkedIn, but that doesn’t make it Facebook for adults. Feh. Meh. Bleh.

    LinkedIn is good for professional, specific stuff. I’ve used it to ask professional questions of a group of self-tagged people, find folks at other orgs in order to ask for contacts and speaking info, and to find out where people at past jobs now are.

    Here’s the thing… you could do just about everything that LinkedIn does on Facebook with a couple plug-ins. The reverse is not true.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  6. Millie wrote:

    I never even would have thought about LinkedIn as Facebook for grownups. Hmmm. Sorry I won’t see you at SAMM! Have a good time in Atlanta.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  7. Colleen wrote:

    Very odd – I hardly considered the two to be in the same sort of ‘social network’ atmosphere. I was a consistent facebooker when I had free time, but now I just maintain it so folks who don’t know my gmail address can find me.

    I consider LinkedIn to be more of a web business card sort of thing, a business contact tool much like ACT! software. (Ah, the good old days). I don’t think the intent of LinkedIn was to generate the sort of dynamic community that’s available on Facebook, with the sheep throwing (which I admit I think is hilarious) and silly group proliferation.

    LinkedIn has been a nifty way to keep my professional contacts all in one spot, and to tag people I know closely who are *not* in my profession but that I keep on hand for various things, like old college & grad school pals who now work in university PR, as lawyers, or in non-profits in Thailand. Half of these are not people that I interact with socially (IRL or web-wise) on any consistent basis, but are folks I’d feel comfortable contacting with a professional question.

    I’m also far more likely to check emails/notices from LinkedIn than I am those from facebook, since I’ve been inundated with ‘quiz match’ and ‘someone wrote on your wall’ emails that do little more than fill my inbox or relate unnecessary info.

    Regarding LinkedIn being soulless (or what FB would look like if MS had invented it, heh), I think that’s just a misunderstanding of its purpose. It’s not *intended* to be fun, or to get across your personality in a ‘social networking’ sense that we’ve all been trained to expect from applications like FB and MySpace. It is, in effect, a business contact database. In fact, if it were more ‘socially’ oriented, it wouldn’t work as well for me, and I wouldn’t use it.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  8. Following up on Colleen’s comment that LinkedIn is “not *intended* to be fun” — I’d go so far as to say it is intended *not to be* fun, or even intended to be *not fun*. Instead of ‘Updates’ you have ‘Action Items’, instead of friends you have ‘contacts’ etc… I get the sense that it is a conscious decision – maybe to avoid the possibility that a user would feel guilty about having fun when they are supposed to be doing something SERIOUS.

    I’m interested in the comparison or the two especially in the context of all the focus in libraryland on gaming, on being engaging, on sites that encourage self-motivation through fun interactivity. Is LinkedIn’s model a dinosaur, or a thriving alternative.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  9. Dan Grady wrote:

    Kudos to this article – I wholeheartedly agree with it, particularly with FB and LinkedIn in their current forms. One of the telltale signs for me is that with FB I find myself wanting to connect with others – friends, relatives, professionals, former classmates – while in LinkedIn I’ve mostly been connected with former colleagues, colleagues I don’t really know all that well, etc. Maybe it’s just how I’m using it, but the end result is as noted here. FB is more ‘real life’ with fun and work all mixed together.

    One other thing, and truly not a big deal to me, but should mention it. I’m a Microsoft employee, and have been with the company for almost 13 years. It’s a place that’s full of passionate, innovative, on-the-cutting-edge people. When I read comments about Microsoft being stuffed-shirt corporate, I have to agree from the standpoint of our enterprise and corporate divisions. There’s an interaction that’s expected in the corporate world that one has to adhere to in order to be successful. Companies don’t want to bet their billion-dollar bsuisinesses on something that’s not built wtih a serious approach.

    But from our consumer divisions – where something like FB would most likely come from, had circumstances been different – give the company a second look. xbox & xbox live, zune (yes, zune), and other consumer divisions aren’t stuffed-shirt corporate, neither inside the company nor externally. They look to leverage social interaction as much as possible within their platforms and domains. If you’re a FB poke-er, have you seen Office Poke? Brilliantly and cynically funny. Not pleading for any sympathy or anything even close to that – just noting that there are thousands of us in the company that are involved in helping to create and move things online and in particular social interaction using technology. :)

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  10. Wow, I go away for a day and look at all this amazing traffic..! Dan, what a great comment. Mike, as well. Mike really hit the nail on the head for me — frankly, I learn more and work harder in “play mode.” And on that note — on to the evening reception!

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  11. Lori Reed wrote:

    I would have never thought to compare the two. It’s like apples and oranges. Both are useful but in completely different ways.

    I use LinkedIn for more formal interactions. It’s like wearing a suit to an interview.

    Facebook is more for fun but it can be a great networking tool. I can throw a sheep at people who I would not normally email out of the blue. It’s a great ice breaker.

    Libraries blocking Facebook…that’s a whole new post :)

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  12. Facebook is like LinkedIn for people that haven’t forgotten how to smile;)

    Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 7:57 am | Permalink
  13. Mike, that’s terrific — another way to look at that: Facebook reminds us to smile.

    Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 8:02 am | Permalink
  14. LinkedIn is simply an online version of the “old boy” network. I’ve seen a number of my former managers registered but few of the hard-working proletariat and middle-class worker bees. The LinkedIn plain-vanilla exterior perfectly reflects the lack of creativity and individualism that plagues modern management. It’s not like the gray flannel, Lexus driving, top-rung types need many more opportunities to socialize. They have their golf parlays, long lunches, meaningless conferences, etc. I say we need more social networking for the artistic and creative types and fewer for the button-down, business minded hacks who jump on the bandwagon once they think there’s a buck to be made. Facebook and MySpace were revolutionary. LinkedIn is trailing edge.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  15. Rick wrote:

    I do not work for LinkedIn or Facebook or any of their competitors.

    Personally I have found that Facebook (or the long list of similar predecessors) *ARE* a complete waste of time, and I strongly hesitate doing business with anyone with a Facebook or AOL account. I suppose it is useful if you are a tween with an Internet connection whereas LinkedIn is useful for professionals who like to network so they don’t become unemployed Facebook junkies. I don’t really like either, my resume is easily found on my own website and get several calls a month but it it did take ten years to accomplish this. So I would have to agree LinkedIn is Facebook for grownups. I also agree ugly people should be on the Radio. I guess I am just a jerk for having an educated opinion? Comments welcome. Flames can go to /dev/null

    Monday, February 16, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  16. Rick, opinions are noses, everybody has one, but if you think FB is just for tweens, you are ill-informed. 45% of all FB users are 26 or older. I have many business connections on FB and use it for those purposes. I think you and I will never work in the same place because we come from very different work approaches.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  17. Y all the fuss? wrote:

    That’s the whole point. Its not Facebook.

    Its for business networking. Its a who’s who on line. If you find someone you know, or want to get connected with, you can connect via different means, IF you want to.

    The most annoying things on linkedin are spammers who blast across organizational groups they’ve never been a part of or -WORSE-, the CHE-BAGS who think that linkedin IS a social networking site and tell everyone what the are reading, doing, where they are vacationing, or what they had for breakfast!

    Many for their LAZY personal convenience so that they can simultaneously multicast the same lame BS out to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin … and wherever else.

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

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