TMI: What’s Behind The Wave Of Oversharing On LinkedIn?
In the last couple of years, stories have begun appearing about oversharing on LinkedIn. The New York Times, Business Insider and Bloomberg have reported on the phenomenon of users posting about personal matters that, previously, would have appeared in personal feeds on other platforms, if at all.
It’s a sign of the disarray that the social media landscape finds itself in. Facebook has become a haven for grandparents posting vacation photos and group-pages for devotees of old sitcoms. Instagram has become an arena for millennial influencers, Twitter has eaten itself and become X and TikTok is, well, TikTok.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, continues apace, a reliable space for job-hunting and professional career advice. In fact, the 20-year-old Microsoft-owned platform is growing; with 950 million members as of July, LinkedIn is poised to soon have a billion users. Users are posting more as well. The number of LinkedIn posts grew 41% from 2021 to 2023.
Why now, and why overshare on LinkedIn?
Perhaps it’s only natural that some of that content is going to cross some boundaries. For some users, LinkedIn might seem like as good a place as any, and maybe better, to mention their divorce or struggle with public peeing. Heck, both are more interesting than someone’s work anniversary.
One culprit may be COVID-19. As people struggled with the new normal, they found comfort in reaching out not just to friends and family but co-workers and even bosses who were faced with some of the same challenges. LinkedIn, which started as a place to upload your resume, shifted towards a space where people feel safe to share intimate details.
There may also be a generational shift at work. The Business Insider story quotes Catalina Valentino, a 21-year-old entrepreneur who “found some notoriety from Davos earlier this year when she posted on LinkedIn about taking off her ‘swanky new pair of Louboutins’ to walk nearly a mile barefoot in the snow to a meeting at the World Economic Forum after her car got stuck. ‘People were shocked, but to me it seemed normal to stop at nothing,’ she wrote. ‘And that’s exactly the mindset of an entrepreneur.’”
Oversharing, Valentino says, comes “pretty much down to Gen Z, to be honest with you.”
Risks of oversharing on LinkedIn
Oversharing on the platform is not without its risks. Colleagues who resent personal material showing up on a professional network may feel obliged to reply with snarky comments.
John Hickey, a millennial working in tech sales, started social media accounts showcasing inappropriate or revealing LinkedIn content. His IG account @bestoflinkedin cheekily describes itself as “Highlighting the heroes & influencers brave enough to share their stories to inspire others.” Reposts include a self-described entrepreneur posting thoughts about tech during a wedding she’s attending and an innovation and transportation expert who decided to sleep in his car rather than use company funds for a hotel.
Employees risk admonishment from their bosses as well. (For more on employers monitoring their workers’ social media, check out this Harvard Business Review article.)
For leaders, oversharing undermines authority
When building your brand as a thought leader, you’re also building respect for yourself. Sharing personal details or controversial opinions may give your LinkedIn audience a reason to think less of you, not more.
In most cases, leaders should avoid sharing opinions about politics, religion, and other controversial subjects. When considering sharing personal matters, you should ask why you are doing it. Is it to be seen as more relatable and authentic, or simply to vent? What good might come out of it? And do you really want to have to be responsible for a mess you might have to clean up?
If you are going to discuss a detail of your private life, it’s best to do so from the perspective of someone who is still in control of their professional life. Let people know that you have taken the appropriate steps to get through your particular life event, whatever it might be, with the same skill and inner fortitude that took you to the top in the first place.
Ultimately, the rule of thumb on LinkedIn for leaders really isn’t different than the same advice parents have been giving their kids for years now around social media. Think twice before sharing: Are you comfortable with the rest of the world seeing this, not just today but for the foreseeable future?
Then, share away.