I’m pretty sure I detonated the LinkedIn bomb when I opened that e-mail. I didn’t mean to do it, and now I find myself stuck in a spider web of names and invitations and Internet come-ons.
LinkedIn is an Internet site that, best I can tell, is a sort of Facebook for making business connections. Occasionally, I will get email messages from people I know on there; they’re asking me to join their network and I’ve mostly politely declined – by that I mean I just delete the message. I don’t do a whole lot on Facebook other than check my messages, and I don’t do Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
But since opening one LinkedIn request last Monday, I’ve seen at least two hundred names, new and old, pop up in my e-mail box. I’m seeing names of people I haven’t thought of since high school graduation night; names of fellow college students who worked beside me planting rows of tomatoes in the hot sun on a local farm; names of former co-workers whose names I recognized from the wooden office mail cubbies next to mine; names of news photographers I spent more time with than anyone else because we drove around in the news van together all day.
For a short time, many years ago, my life was filled with these people; we ate lunch together and talked until we knew all there was to know and then got temporarily bored with each other, and then our lives sent us veering off in other directions. And the typeface of those names grew smaller and smaller until they were no longer visible in our memories.
I guess that’s one nice thing about my opening that LinkedIn message. It let me remember some people and some things.
But as I’ve written here more than a few times, it’s unsettling to think that, without my consent, my name was scooped up in this tight and impossibly large butterfly net of the cyberworld. By clicking to open that one message, I unwittingly gave my consent to hop aboard a giant spaceship full of not only everyone I’ve ever known, but pretty much everyone they’ve ever known. And we’re not just talking continental United States, because I spent a bit of time in Argentina last year and made some friends, and Argentines are among your more sociable people.
The day after I opened that first email, I got a message from my mom, asking what SELF means. Turns out LinkedIn has me listed as a writer and producer who works for SELF, meaning not the magazine but the person. The mighty butterfly net somehow swooped out and grabbed my parents, and they aren’t even on Facebook.
In relating this story to a couple of friends, I’m finding out it’s likely that I caused all of this myself by perhaps filling out a LinkedIn form or account, even years ago. Honestly, I don’t remember. It doesn’t seem like something I would do. There’s no photograph, and only the most basic information about my professional life.
But now that I’m on there, I’m wondering whether I should post a photo and fill out the information. It’s kind of nice thinking about long-lost friends – what I can remember of them. And why not be part of that vast and mighty net? Everyone else is. Literally.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.