LinkedIn: Another Big Waste of Time Online?

January 2nd, 2007 by Bob Bly

I increasingly get e-mails from people asking me to join something called their “LinkedIn” network.

And always, I politely decline.

I don’t know about you, but I am busy enough as it is.

If I have your e- mail address, and you have mine, and we know each other — we are already connected.

Asking someone to take any further action seems, to me, a waste of their time — and yours.

But then again, I am a Baby Boomer who finds all of this “social media” strange, alien, and absurd.

I have never even seen YouTube and MySpace … don’t own an iPod, digital camera, Bluetooth, Blackberry, wireless laptop, or even a cell phone.

Would those of you who are involved with all of the above explain to me — WHY?

It just seems like an endless parade of electronic crap … pardon my French.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 at 10:11 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

78 responses about “LinkedIn: Another Big Waste of Time Online?”

  1. SpongeBob Fan said:

    It took me two years to even open the digital camera my husband gave me … I thought I liked film. Now I’m seriously considering throwing my now-unused film camera away. With my digitial camera, I know instantly if I got (or missed!) a photo I wanted, and can try again if missed. No more paying for developing photos I’ll never look at again … and thanks to digital technology, my favorite photos are looped on a never-ending screen-saver …. so I actually get to enjoy them and the memories.

    Also, gotta’ say, I love my cell phone. Gives me a feeling of safety that’s better than a gun, IMHO. (And I am licensed to carry, so I know of what I speak.)

    And I just got a Zune, and I love it. Especially with my Bose 3 headphones.

    Oh, Bob – you’re still in your 40s. And you have lots of free time now that you’ve retired from writing books. Jump in and try one or two of these new things. Open up those horizons – you’re way too young to be pre-crotchety!

  2. Michael Roach said:

    Online “communities” such as YouTube and MySpace can be addicting and time-wasting, which is why I avoid them right now.

    But I really don’t understand your opposition to owning “an iPod, digital camera, Bluetooth, Blackberry, wireless laptop, or even a cell phone.”

    My iPod contains many, many hours of teleseminars (many moderated by yourself), which are great to listen to while driving.

    Digital cameras are simply much more convenient than film cameras. I can immediately decide if I like the photo I just took. If so, I keep it. If not, I delete it. It saves me money and frustration, compared to a film camera.

    My bluetooth earpiece is much more comfortable than holding a cell phone against my ear. Yes, I have a cell phone — I can’t imagine life without it!

    Wireless laptop? Well, not yet, but I do intend on buying one as soon as I can afford a nice MacBook. It’s nice to have the freedom to access the internet on the go, without being chained to your desk. Many airports offer free wireless internet, as well as hotels. In fact, some now offer ONLY wireless internet — there are no cat 5 outlets in the rooms. I also like the idea of being able to have a change of scenery from my home office. With a wireless laptop, I can go to the nearest coffee shop and do some work there.

  3. Lisa Taylor Huff said:

    Well, I can’t claim ownership of all those gadgets you mentioned but the cell phone comes in handy for emergencies and the occasional times I’m out and need to reach someone (but I never give the number to my clients, only friends and family); the wireless laptop allows me to sit here on the bed and work or to move about the house, and it’s good for travel too; and I’m totally into photography so the digital SLR camera I splurged on last year has been put to excellent use in my recent move to Paris. I’m now thinking about an iPod for those long Paris Metro rides (boring); the Blackberry and Bluetooth look cool but I have no reason to justify that kind of expenditure in my business.

    I’m on Linkedin but frankly have found no use for it. In theory it’s supposed to be a networking tool where you can get introductions to people you think you want to know if you have mutual “linkedin” contacts. But it costs nothing, so it doesn’t bother me much that I haven’t really used it. I only accept linkedin requests from people I know, too.

  4. Craig Hysell said:

    I like my laptop because I can get out of my office and go write on the beach or in a park. I enjoy my cell phone because I like to conduct my business while driving to and from writing spots and telemarketers don’t know the number. My Ipod is worthwhile because I hate the music they play in my gym, people generally leave me alone if I’m wearing headphones and it gives me something to listen to while going on a run.

    None of this is necessary. It is merely a convenience that I can barely afford.

    I have never found anything redeeming in YouTube or MySpace. Although I must confess that I rarely visit such places. From my limited experience I feel like I am sifting through nothing more than a global medium of gossip and voyeurism. Which are the reasons I stopped watching network television.

    But I do blog. And so does Bob. Why and where do we draw our lines? The answer may be different for each and every one of us, but if you want to follow humanity’s desires and “development” (a term used loosely for argument’s sake), follow its technology.
    I’m also a fan of oven-cooked DiGiorno pizzas and Dr.Pepper. I find this particular form of technology delicious.

  5. Fern said:

    Hey Bob: I think you just take your time to see what the deal is with technology. There was a time you thought PowerPoints were a terrible tool! I think a cell phone is a necessity — especially, as SpongeBob Fan points out, in an emergency situation.

    I’m in LinkedIn, I haven’t figured out it’s worth but there’s enough buzz there to intrigue me. Be interesting if any work comes from it…

    My digital camera is so easy to use and it’s fantastic. We did throw our “regular” camera away. The only technology I’m kinda backing away from is the blackberry kinda stuff. I have no idea what it’s good for and why I should have it.

  6. Richard Armstrong said:

    I have a cellphone and dearly wish I didn’t. But after a while, the various people in your life expect you to have it and keep it on. Ipod, digital camera, blackberry, etc. nope, no interest. I do love my wireless mac laptop, though. Very handy in hotels. Ironically, the only person who has ever invited me to join LinkedIn is Fern. You may know her as Poster #5 above!

  7. Frank Catalano said:

    Since I was a nerd before being nerdy was cool, I have “an iPod, digital camera, Bluetooth, Blackberry, wireless laptop, or even a cell phone.” Got ‘em all.

    But then again, I travel on business nearly every week, and it’s the only way I can do my job and still live in Seattle.

    The iPod is for listening to podcasts of my favorite NPR radio shows when working out or on a plane; the Blackberry has a Bluetooth headset so it can be a comfortable cell phone (otherwise, it’s like talking into the side of a taco); the WiFi in the laptop is for the hotel.

    The digital camera, actually, is my wife’s. I get to borrow it from time to time to take photos for my blog. (She posts pictures of cats on her blog, tortietude.com.)

    But LinkedIn is a time sink. I belong. But I ignore most invitations unless I know the person really well. I really have no desire to be a business development (e.g., pitching) conduit for people I barely know.

  8. Sean Woodruff said:

    “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”

    – Rodin

  9. Gene Palmisano said:

    It’s very effect marketing, targeting a generation desperate to be connected and cool.

  10. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob,

    I’m like you. I bought my first digital camera a month ago. I sent a picture of my dogs to my friend via email (she has a dog, too). So that was fun. :-) Other than that, it is gathering dust on my desk.

    I have a very expensive wireless laptop I never use except when I give presentations.

    I have a cell phone but this is a necessity. My husband travels all over the world and often calls when I’m not home. The phone does not have Internet or email or even a camera.

    As for online communities, I find blogging to be time consuming enough. I don’t need anything else.

    (PS — I sent you an article from the print WSJ about libraries. Scissors, envelope, and stamp. Sooooo low tech but so effective.)

  11. Lori Richardson said:

    Bob,

    I love your honesty. I’d just say “never say never”, and others have said it much better than I:

    “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.

    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president/chairman of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

    “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

    “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

    “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

  12. Rhea said:

    I get those LinkIn invites, too. I don’t do that much but I do the other stuff: digg, reddit, myspace, livejournal. For bloggers these things bring traffic.

  13. Leslie said:

    I have to agree. I have given up all the networking sites (Ryze, DirectMatches). They take too much time (and money) to set up and in the end, I just more people telling me to join their venture. Good call, Bob!

  14. Nancy McClure said:

    Linked In actually can help you get “word of mouth” referrals.

    I’m only connected to about a dozen people that I actually know and can recommend (as Linked In itself suggests). The real power is the recommendations people can enter.

    Brian, a past client, connected with me and then put in a recommendation about me. People in Brian’s network got an email from Linked In about it. Someone who greatly respects Brian contacted me about giving me freelance work.

    Anectdotal evidence, but there are possibilities here, I think.

  15. Bill Henderson said:

    Bob, I have huge respect for you, but in this one area…gosh, you could do yourself a favor by lightening up. They’re only tools. Would you be angry about power screwdrivers or quick-drying spackle? Use what’s useful, ignore the rest, and don’t waste your feelings on it one way or the other. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, all this negative passion is like getting angry with new flavors of ice-cream.

    More specifically…

    You Tube – I’m curious about events that I wasn’t able to witness: it’s handy to actually SEE something that’s controversial and no interpretation you’ve READ of it convinces you.

    Social media – your own blog, with its very active comments area, IS social media–and very useful to all of us.

    MySpace – No opinion. Don’t go there. But I might if it could be useful to me.

    iPod – If you love music, which I do, it’s a no-brainer. If you don’t, why bother?

    Digital camera – If you like to take pictures, it’s a no-brainer. If not, why bother with ANY camera? But I have to say, since I’m involved with a lot of websites, it certainly makes my life a lot easier professionally.

    Bluetooth – do you use a cordless phone? Same principle. I hate cords because I’m always snagging myself on them. Bluetooth headphones let me do things at the computer silently, yet be free to move around the room without tripping. Just a handy tool.

    Blackberry – I don’t need to check email all the time, so I don’t use one. If I did, I’d consider it.

    Linkedin – I’ve gotten those emails. I don’t think it’s something I need.

    Cellphone – again, just a tool. It’s been a godsend me–when I was lost trying to find a client’s location, when my wife needed to contact me urgently, etc. If I know I’m not going to need it, I just leave it at home.

    Wireless laptop – Wow. If you use a computer for a variety of tasks, as most of us do, I’m at a loss why you wouldn’t want to benefit from a touch of mobility.

    PS
    For what it’s worth, I’m 63.

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Bill: I love music too, but I have a radio/CD player in both my car and office, and I am almost always one place or the other. So why bother with iPod? My kids have iPods, and when they’re plugged in, they can’t hear what anyone is saying to them, so it has an isolating effect, in my view.

  17. Frank Catalano said:

    Bob, with all due respect, you could make the same anti-iPod isolating case for your radio/CD player — if you wore headphones with them, as you’d have to do if using them in a gym or an airplane. An iPod is a digital audio device, nothing more. For that matter, so is a CD player.

    The iPod simply stores more and is more flexible.

    It ain’t the technology. It’s how you use it.

  18. Ted Demopoulos said:

    Bob,

    one BIG advantage. When people switch jobs, you don’t lose their emails/contact info. That’s about all, but it’s a biggie.

    Now you and I will never “switch” jobs and change emails — but for most people I know (clients, friends, comrades, pinochle aficianados, etc.) it’s common

  19. SpongeBob Fan said:

    Yesterday, I was in a meeting with a bank client and we got talking about online banking. One of the people there – who l-o-v-e-s online banking – said (basically!) how can we force more people to use this so they can see how great it is.

    The person didn’t say “force,” but it was clearly what was meant.

    I suggested that online banking is just another delivery system – like drive-up banking or using a teller or ATM. New ways/new technologies allow people lots of choice in how they get things done.

    Later, driving home, I got thinking about this thread in that respect. Really, we simply have so many new ways to do old & new things. Different people have different ways … and we all like/love the ways we like/love. It’s good to be open to new ones, but certainly not required. (My husband’s best friend and his wife don’t have a TV or a radio and the only paper they read is one big national. Their major entertainment is borrowing audio books from the library. They have no idea what’s going on in Boston. It’d drive me nuts. But it works for them!)

  20. Bob Bly said:

    Sponge: Online banking? I don’t even have an ATM card! I think it’s all a matter of need and personal preference, but I do believe my approach gets rid of clutter and simplifies life, which is a plus.

  21. Jim Logan said:

    You may find this post interesting and offer a few ideas on the use of LinkedIn: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html

  22. Alexey Novikov said:

    Bob, I like your conservatism!

    A few words about LinkedLn: sometimes it helps to find clients. For those who is not so famous.

  23. Frank Catalano said:

    But that sort of begs the question about the usefulness of LinkedIn to those of us who aren’t looking for either jobs or clients. I’m listed there, but have yet to see the benefit (after several years).

    I love technology. I reviewed it for many years for print and TV. But I also know that many times, what’s cool isn’t necessarily useful after using it for a month or three.

    So I do see Bob’s point, in general terms, even though much of what he’ve cited specifically has been useful to me in certain situations. YMMV.

  24. Bob Bly said:

    Frank nails it: since I am looking for neither a job nor clients nor to make business deals, LinkedIn is a waste of time for me.

  25. Brett Owens said:

    I’m a B2B marketer and LinkedIn has been effective for me. The information seems to be more current than other online sources, because people tend to keep their profiles up to date. You can also read more about their roles, so you are not just limited to their job title.

    I also have a theory that people on LinkedIn are less likely to ignore a cold email than a regular person. There are a lot of people on that site who enjoy tooting their own horns and being in the middle of everything. This theory is showing promise but is not yet statistically significant enough for me to make a declaration.

    I have also attempted to use LinkedIn for recruiting purposes, but the results were quite poor.

    So I agree with the general consensus – outside of marketing, not sure how much value you’d get.

  26. Andrew Cavanagh said:

    Hi Bob,

    Linkedin is a community of professionals and business owners who network online to get more business.

    The problem is many members use software to automatically send messages to linkein members and anyone in their email address book inviting them to link to their profile.

    These people make no attempt to find out who you are or how you might be able to do business together.

    The whole Linkedin site – a good idea when it started out – is becoming a complete pain in the backside due to this incessant, automized spamming.

    I hope that answers your question.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  27. Shamus said:

    I agree that many of our modern consumer gadgets are just fun to have (perhaps not even fun for Bob) but aren’t truly necessary. But the problem arises when people around you has switched to a lifestyle such that they rely heavily on these gadgets to stay connected and you don’t. All my friends own cell phones. I can imagine if I don’t own one, hardly anyone will contact me in the next three months. After being ignored for three months, I guess I might just be easily forgotten for next 10 years or longer. These days, my home phone seldom rings. Of course, I still have a choice, but it’s between owning a cell phone or risk fading away from the memories of the people I know.

    But I’m really curious: Bob, don’t you feel totally insecure not owning an ATM card? I don’t know about the place you live, but over here at my place (Singapore), most banks close around 4pm from Mondays to Fridays, at 1pm on Saturdays, and all day on Sundays and public holidays. What if you suddenly need money and the bank is closed and you don’t have an ATM card, assuming that you didn’t bother to get a credit card too? In fact, I seldom go the bank because an ATM card allows me to get money any time almost anywhere.

  28. Bob Bly said:

    Shamus: I cheat: my wife as an ATM card, and in emergency, I can ask her to go to the bank and withdraw cash from her account.

  29. Bob Blawblaw said:

    Respectfully. It’s essential to dip your toes into the world of MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn etc to create exciting copy in today’s ever changing climate.

  30. Bob Bly said:

    Copywriters: BlawBlaw states that to be a good copywriter, you have to view MySpace and You Tube. True or false?

  31. David Tandet said:

    Dear Bob,

    Feeling LukeWarm about LinkedIn myself. The bigger it gets, the less sense it makes. I mean, is there any person out there who feels closer to someone else just because they share space in the yellow pages?

  32. Doc Kane said:

    Bob,

    I’ve always been an admirer of the creative ways you approach business, and have read many of your books. Since you have provided me with a lot of insight over the years I’ll let you in on a little secret regarding LinkedIn. It works!!

    If you’re in business for yourself, the ability to gain knowledge of your friends’ friends via LinkedIn is immeasurable. It’s somewhat like “Six degrees of separation” online.

    For example, commonly asking people for referrals when you’re in business for yourself always seems to leave a lot of people puzzled. They just don’t know who to refer you to, or how to make the introduction. With LinkedIn, you can actually “see” your friends’ contacts online and then just ask for the introduction. They already know and trust you and so it proves to be real advantageous for the asker, and easy on the person giving the introduction. It’s truly win-win.

    The beauty of LinkedIn is it makes networking smooth and painless. I would highly suggest you check it out! Cheers, Doc

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  34. John Forde said:

    I’m with Bob… I get these “LinkedIn” email invitations all the time. And it really is, frankly, a nuisance and not much more. But it’s more than just the time factor. It’s the implication of the service itself. I mean, it’s nice to feel included and all that… but do we really need to automate our real friendships and business connections?

    If there’s someone I know well who wants to ask me for advice or a reference, they’ve talked to me and know who I know… so they know to write to me or call when they need help. And likewise the other way around. If I suddenly found out I needed some help or advice in a certain area, I’m not likely to log into “LinkedIn” so I can look up the friends of friends of friends who might have some inkling of what I’m looking for. Instead, I’ll go to my address book and contact somebody I know and trust.

    What’s more, this: References, especially career references, are all about trust. A recommendation of a friend for another friend is certainly one way to borrow that kind of credibility… but of what value is it when you’ve spread that borrowed trust and personal knowledge of someone’s character and abilities five, six, or ten different links down the chain? Not so much, I imagine.

  35. Bob Bly said:

    John is right, Doc: It is a nuisance, and the best referrals come from the network you’ve built through years in business, not LinkedIn. Take a look at http://www.bly.com and click on Vendors.

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