UNDER THE BRIDGE: THE TROLL ISSUE
The week of May 10, 2015
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LinkedIn is for being a professional troll

By Marisa Kabas

If LinkedIn were a classmate, it’d be the one who always sat in the front row and took copious notes but still managed to do not so great on the test. It’s the social network of record for human resources professionals, headhunters, your dad, and general stalkers alike, and with its sterile design and basic functionality, it’s certainly not winning any awards for excitement.

Most of the time, you’re signing in because you got an email alert that a person you’ve never heard of asked to connect with you. Or because another alert let you know that your middle school boyfriend had been checking out your profile (or something to that effect). And when it comes time to use it for professional means, I’ve found it to be confusing, clunky, and largely unhelpful. For those somehow unfamiliar with the 12-year-old social network, it’s used as an online résumé of sorts to list your past and present job experience, as well as your educational history.

The problem is that the uniformity of platform tends to make everyone look and sound the same, with stock head shots and descriptions filled with meaningless buzzwords. (What’s a “social media ninja,” anyway?) There’s very little room for creative flair or to stretch the site’s boundaries to better suit your personality. But there is a way to have a little bit of fun on LinkedIn and engage in some harmless online trolling—that is unless you’re looking for a job that won’t appreciate that you have “glitter tattoos” listed as one of your skills.

tomahawk,_glitter

LinkedIn allows users to “endorse” people for certain skills. In the past, I’ve been endorsed for press releases, event management, and media relations (from my former life as a PR person), and recently I’ve received nods for storytelling and feature writing. It’s an interesting feature in theory, allowing people to see who exactly vouches for you and creating some transparency in the process. But it makes your LinkedIn profile look like a cross between a failed game of Tetris and an unfinished mosaic.

As it turns out, it’s possible to endorse a friend for almost anything—including things that you had no idea were considered skills. Of course, there’s a catch: Users have the ability to approve or cancel endorsements, but it’s easy enough to slip something through the cracks. I took to LinkedIn to have a little fun and see if people would actually be bothered by their absurd endorsements, if they would think I was crazy, or if they wouldn’t notice at all. First, I tested out some endorsements on coworkers at the Daily Dot.

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miles_linked_in

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That was almost too easy, because as miners of the Internet, we’ve come to realize that if something strange happens, it’s probably for a story. Then I set my sights on friends who have come to expect a certain level of weirdness from me.

halloween_costume,_soups

pizza,_fire_eating

chess,_acrobatics

A few of them responded with mild confusion, but not surprise. It seemed that my reputation as a friendly troll has preceded me.

Then I took it up a notch. I wanted to see what would happen when I endorsed people from my past that I was connected with on LinkedIn but hadn’t actually communicated with in ages. I deliberately chose people who weren’t outright strangers—in other words, people who might feel inclined to send me a message along the lines of “WTF?”

scuba,_nascar

potty_training,_baskets

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Aside from a few profile views from these people from my past, none of them said a word. Do people just not care about their LinkedIn image, or were they planning on scrubbing my recommendations altogether? It’s hard to tell, but at least with the people I know, it doesn’t feel like LinkedIn is a defining strategy when it comes to getting a job.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of this experiment was when the student became the master, and I was endorsed right back.

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matt_endorsement

Now that’s a résumé I can be proud of.

Photo via Nan Palmero/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)