I finally joined LinkedIn. This was something of a hurdle for me because I have cyberagoraphobia. This is my best approximation of the fear of having a public profile in cyberspace. Wikipedia says agoraphobia is, “characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment to be dangerous, uncomfortable, or unsafe” and this can include “uncontrollable social situations.” Bingo. This is ironic for someone who is admittedly a social butterfly. More like a bonobo actually, minus the promiscuous sexual behaviour. Bonobos tend to be more peace loving than their chimpanzee cousins because females in particular use sex as a form of greeting, reconciliation and resolution. I’m not sure about Ibiza but in Calgary, monogamy and the traditional duality of marriage frowns on orgies as a means to get along. My go to social lubricant is good conversation with sincere praise thrown in for good measure; if that fails, a beer and feigned interest in the Montreal Canadiens’ home game.
I don’t have a Facebook account for the same reason. I had nightmares about declining friend requests, afraid of the perceived slights that I would inflict on the second cousin of the girl I met at my friend’s party. Or conversely, the people who might quietly ignore my request for friendship. What do you mean the guy at the 7-Eleven, who knows my favourite slurpee flavour, doesn’t want to be my friend? The whole system seemed fraught with the fragile anticipations built into every ‘connect’ and ‘thumbs up’. We are like stocks on a grand social exchange, the numbers of subscribers to your follies and thoughts a direct collate to your value.
Which brings me to the ultimate depressed state – LinkedIn subscription. Unlike your friends and family, who watch your links to TED talks and chuckle at your smarmy selfie taken in new black thick rimmed glasses (thanks Elvis Costello), the connections in LinkedIn are considered your lifelines to employment. This is supposedly your ticket to the ultimate AlphaPhiCappa club, a secret fraternity of the elite and connected that will grace you with a window into their network. Except, really, it isn’t. It is an exceptionally easy tool for recruiters to find unemployed professionals and to make money pimping them to companies. Yeah, sure, you connect with old colleagues, agree to go for coffee to commiserate or just to practice the one-upmanship of comparing the status of your kids. But, really, you are hoping for a pimp to show up and give you some hope that you’re resume is attractive enough to justify the fee. Unless, it’s not and you’re the dirty whore that will do you-know-what (Walmart greeter anyone?) for an embarrassingly low salary. Welcome to the land of the down and out.
My sister sent me an email a few weeks ago notifying me that our parents had joined LinkedIn. This was before I had joined. My mother had described herself as, “poet, reviewer, dramatist, short story writer–“, while my father summed up his in a single word, “cogitator”. They are lovely people and I suspect a lot more interesting than myself but as a cruel footnote to my emerging cyber alter ego, I pray to God they never attempt to connect to me. It would be the equivalent of having your Mom or Dad hold your hand as they walk you to work. The whole point is who you know and anyone scrolling through my network will wonder why I’m connected to a cogitator and a dramatist. Already, my transformation has begun as I scramble to raise my online value. As I expose my underbelly to the cyber web, I pray that it does not devour me.