In simpler times, I used to distinguish between LinkedIn and Facebook on emotional quotient – the former was a smartly rational forum while the latter patently personal. But in recent complex times, courtesy the socio-economic bloodbath caused by the coronavirus, LinkedIn is developing newer hues and becoming a distress helpline.
But first, let me explain the evidence lest you are confused. It is indeed the recent wave of professional and financial pleas that are being circulated in a very emotive manner, especially by the many who have lost employment during the pandemic. These are not professional reemployment applications but instead, deeply personal messages seeking solutions to existentialist crisis. Thus, from a smart sophisticated boardroom or a business centre, LinkedIn is becoming a park bench or a coffee shop, loaded with oodles of empathy.
What is equally interesting is the quality of the response, truthfully very overwhelming and a lot more real than the stiffness of the original interactions, as well-entrenched industry folks reciprocate in a human manner. Those who cannot help directly are prone to commenting for a wider circulation in their peer group, even for perfect strangers, quite unlike the previous pattern of guarded reciprocation. So, the potential of this networking brand is stretching well beyond its original bespoke intent, built on an eco-system of bespoke connections. Quite certainly a deviation from its original white-collared boundaries to a way more inclusive and empathetic universe.
What LinkedIn is experiencing today is simply an expression of the larger changes in the culture of workplaces, especially the relationship between employees and employers. Especially the dissolution of power distances and deeply structured employment terms, leading to a far more sensitive equilibrium loaded in favour of the employee. The Gig Economy has certainly helped as has the many emerging forms of flexible employment and, of course, a greater appetite for entrepreneurship. But the greatest contributor, I suspect, has been the constant practice of self-exposure, including family, on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, where even the sternest of us are shedding their well-honed inhibitions to project a lifestyle or an opinion. We are getting accustomed to be revealing our emotional sides and this is extending to the job hunt.
I wonder how the brand is reacting to this change in customer behaviour, over the last few years Truthfully, it seems like a great development as the change in tonality is leading to a greater volume of meaningful conversations and thus leading to an increase in stickiness. The infusion of emotion is an enhanced adhesive for all concerned and there is a direction for LinkedIn that I must logically predict. In an era of greater convergence it may well become an integrated engagement forum, unifying the roles of its original avatar as well as Facebook and Instagram. As in, the primary filter will still be professional contacts but the conversations will straddle the continuum from deeply social and personal to highly professional and operational. It will also signal the blurring of our multiple selves, coexisting identities nurtured by societal pressures demolished in a digital platform. What makes it special is that it is work-first and not friends and family, so the toughest barrier is broken at the very beginning.
As the economies globally continue to suffer, the role of LinkedIn will be enhanced as a genuine helpline for survival, eventually morphing to a genuine integrated socio-economic platform. This will help us become more human, real and collaborative, which certainly augurs well for the world at large.
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