Taking a break from LinkedIn

Ever since I first signed up for LinkedIn way back in 2007, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the platform, especially in the last couple of years. Posting, liking, commenting, I couldn’t and can’t seem to get enough of it. However, where I used to absolutely love LinkedIn, my attitude towards the platform over the last year or so has evolved into what can only be described as a love-hate relationship.

I still love (or, well, appreciate is probably the better word) LinkedIn for all the opportunities it has given me, the genuine connections I’ve made and the things I’ve learned from others posting on there. I’d even go as far as saying I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career were it not for LinkedIn and the opportunities that have come through my network on there.

On the other hand, there’s a couple of things on LinkedIn that I’ve grown to dislike, and they seem to be slowly turning the scales to the platform and my activity on there becoming a net-negative instead of a net-positive for me.

First, the quality of the posts. Where my feed used to be overwhelmingly professional and posts were mostly related to software testing, software development and everything that goes with it, these days I’m seeing a lot of other stuff on there that might be relevant for some people, but definitely not for me.

Political views. Personal stuff that is nowhere nearly related to what you do for a living. Endless ‘discussion’ (bashing, more like) of things that were beaten to death ages ago. And most of all, the neverending stream of self-important humblebragging. Yes, I’ve definitely been guilty of doing that myself as well. I’m no saint, but I’m tired of it, anyway. As a result, watching my feed has become incredibly mentally exhausting.

But Bas, you might say, why don’t you just check it less often? Well, that’s where the second thing I’ve grown to dislike comes in, and it is probably a much bigger dislike than the first one.

While LinkedIn is definitely much more business-oriented than, for example, Twitter, which I left a couple of years ago, it is a social media platform, carefully engineered to keep people interacting with it as long and as often as possible. When you start looking for the effect of social media on your brain, you’ll find a lot of articles that tell you exactly this: you didn’t lose your attention, it was stolen from you.

And big tech must be doing something right (at least, regarding their own interests), because I spend a lot more time than I should on LinkedIn, time that I suspect I can put to much better use.

Having read a lot of articles about people struggling with and quitting social media (here are some examples) and recognizing myself a lot in the symptoms described in there, I’ve come to realize that something needs to change.

I have started to wonder whether or not I should spend such a big part of the finite amount of time and energy that I have available throughout the day on browsing and refreshing LinkedIn, with all its humblebragging, broetry and other content that’s much more about the eyeballs and the likes than it is about providing actual value to those who read it.

And that’s why I’ve decided to take a break from LinkedIn, at least for a while. I don’t want to give it up altogether (at least not yet…) like I did with Twitter, especially because again, I have been getting a lot of value out of the platform over the years. I do want to see how much of that is directly related to me being on LinkedIn, though, and how much of that is purely because of the quality of my talks, my articles and my courses.

You might call it an attempt to reset the way I use the platform. You might call it a LinkedIn detox. You might call it whatever you want, I don’t know exactly how to describe it myself. However, I feel that an extended break is the only right thing to do at the moment. And this is what that’s going to look like:

  • I will check in to LinkedIn at most once a week (but moving as soon as possible to once every other week), on Friday mornings, to see if I’ve got any messages that absolutely need to be dealt with. And by ‘need to’ I mean: check if I miss out on any potential business opportunities. I will also accept invites that have come in during the week.

  • I will also (very occasionally) publish posts, but will be using an external service, and only to point people to new content that I’ve produced, be it a blog post, a video or even a new open source workshop. In other words, those few posts that I do share are meant to provide immediate value to those reading them.

Apart from that, from today, September 5, 2022, I’ll stay away from LinkedIn until at least January 1, 2023, and who knows how much longer.

I hope that this will help me clear my mind, restore my ability to focus on tasks (in other words, do more deep work) and reduce the continuous anxiety and urge to ‘just check LinkedIn once again’.

This, in turn, hopefully enables me to produce more valuable content. Blogs, talks, new courses and workshops, … I think there’s a lot more value in that than in writing social media updates and comments that are inherently much more ephemeral in nature.

I am fully aware that I still have a business to run, and that in the past, LinkedIn has been my main channel for promotion and marketing. During my break, I will, and will need to, therefore explore alternative ways of bringing my services to the attention of potential clients. I’ve been exploring some ways to do this for a while, but haven’t really taken a lot of action in that area yet. I’m really curious to see how dependent I am on LinkedIn, really.

Being less ‘visible’ online, or at least on LinkedIn, might result in me getting fewer requests for conference talks and workshops, too. And that’s OK. While I love traveling, seeing new places and meeting new people at conferences, I am totally fine if the number of travel opportunities offered goes down. If anything, it will allow me to focus and try to get to the places that I would really like to go to and do some work, be it a conference or an in-house training gig.

So, if you’re a company or a conference organizer in Canada, Iceland, Ireland, Italy or Greece, please read on to learn how to contact me :)

I also hope that this break from LinkedIn will give me more time and the attention required to focus on some goals outside of work. I do read quite a lot of books already, but most of the time I stick with the ‘lighter’ stuff because I just don’t seem to possess the attention span required for reading and processing more demanding literature anymore, and that’s something I would like to change.

I’m also aiming to finally get enough training in to be able to run a marathon in 2023, and I’ve even set my eyes on one or two races that go slightly beyond that distance. Needless to say that training for these things will take a significant amount of time, but it will also require both focus and proper sleep, two things that for me easily deteriorate if I spend too much time and mental energy on attention black holes such as LinkedIn.

I’m definitely not going to disappear from the planet, or even from the Internet, so if you want to get or stay in touch, please email me instead (bas@ontestautomation.com). I am more than happy to discuss opportunities for collaboration, or even just to have a chat.

If necessary, I might even give you my telephone number so you can text me, or so that we can have an actual call. Old-fashioned, I know, but much more personal, too.

I am really looking forward to going back to those slightly more traditional and ‘slower’ means of communication. I sometimes joke that part of my brain is permanently stuck in the 90’s, and I think this might be an example of my actions matching that.

In any case, by all means feel free to get and stay in touch. I just ask you to not use LinkedIn messages, invites, comments or tags to do so. Cheers!

P.S. Apart from the articles I linked to earlier in this post, here are a couple of books that have really changed my thinking about social media and my presence on these platforms. I highly recommend you read them.

Cal Newport - Digital Minimalism

Adam Alter - Irresistible

Johann Hari - Stolen Focus

Update (October 4, 2022 - one month in): So, it has been a month since I started my LinkedIn break, and so far, it has been with ups and downs. The ups are that I (predictably) spend a lot less time on LinkedIn, which has had a positive effect on my focus.

Work is still coming in steadily as well, especially requests for training. It’s too early to say I don’t need LinkedIn for lead generation anymore, and I am still posting links to new content on there, which might help, but the first signs are positive. I’ll keep a close eye on how this will evolve over the next months.

What I definitely miss least of all is the ‘drama’, i.e., people bickering and fighting over stuff trying to put themselves into a good light over others. I’ve been sent a link to some of that and I am really, really glad that that stuff doesn’t consume my time and mental energy anymore.

However, speaking of mental energy, I still feel the cravings to go on LinkedIn quite regularly. I sort of expected this, as it is me against an army of attention engineers, after all.. I hope that this is going to go away soon enough, now that I am ready to move from accessing LinkedIn once a week to only checking it once every other week.

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