Why LinkedIn is a lot like love


(MoneyWatch) Where would we be without LinkedIn, the business white pages for planet Earth? I bet you couldn't imagine going back to the days before you could find people you'd lost track of or attempt to connect with pretty much anyone in the working world, whether they like it or not. And therein, lies the rub.

In many ways, LinkedIn is a lot like a dating site, except for business.

There's a song by the J. Geils Band called "Love Stinks" that goes like this, "You love her; but she loves him. And he loves somebody else; you just can't win." Trying to connect with people on LinkedIn can be just like that. Moreover, how we network and form relationships in the working world is very similar to how we do it in our personal lives.

If you want to have a career, you've got to have a LinkedIn profile. And it's a great way to manage your business contacts. But LinkedIn also makes it easy to try to connect with people you don't know to further your career or your business. When it comes to that, don't be surprised if some see you more or less like an ugly troll trying to hit on them.

Gross analogy, but you've got to admit, it fits. Don't tell me you don't think of some opportunists trying to connect with you the same way. You know you do. They put you on the spot and then you've got to reject them. It's annoying. Unless, of course, they've got something you want. Then bingo, you make a connection. Not for life. Just until you get what you want, get bored and dump them. Just like dating.

As for posting to all those groups and commenting on discussions, that's just like when you were single, wasting your nights bouncing from one bar to another hoping to meet that someone special. Just try to imagine all those desperate, inane, rambling nightclub conversations that ultimately led to absolutely nothing. That's right. LinkedIn is just like that.

Speaking of which, I guess Facebook is more or less how young people date these days. Why adults use it, I have no idea. None of my friends or family members have the slightest interest in anything going on in my life. They've all got their own mini-dramas to deal with. Every so often we get together, break some bread, have a few drinks and catch up. I always thought that was a pretty good system but what do I know?

Twitter's different. Twitter's a media outlet, an incredibly redundant and overloaded news source for people with ADD because nobody, and I mean nobody, has time to read even a tiny fraction of what people tweet. It's also how actors, politicians and rock stars -- you know, narcissists -- get attention and stalkers. Anyway, you're not going to form any real relationships on Twitter.

Look, I know how this makes me sound. It makes me sound cynical and jaded. That may be true. I guess that's because there's nothing new here, at least not to me. Working at a company or doing business is all about relationships. Business relationships, personal relationships, they all work pretty much the same way. And online social networks are just a new way to find each other.

What can you learn from all of this? I don't know, but I'll tell you what I've learned: In many respects, business life is a lot like personal life. Companies are a lot like homes. Bosses are like parents. Business partners are like spouses. Coworkers are like friends. And employees are like kids. I know that sounds strange, but if you spent as much time thinking about it as I do, it might actually make sense.

As for online social networks, they're just a new way to do the same old stuff. They're another way to find and connect with each other. The same rules apply.