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LinkedIn and Instagram: Formidable Counterparts in a World Defined by Toxic Comparison

LinkedIn for the professionally self-conscious can be like Instagram for the materially insecure 

Instagram, a photo-video sharing platform surpassing one billion users, is the globally renowned facilitator for self-expression. While restaurateurs use Instagram to debut their culinary exploits and avid backpackers show us their most daring adventures, A-listers use it to flaunt their million-dollar mansions in LA, Dubai, or even both. Following closely behind, LinkedIn is used by over 830 million workers worldwide. If you search any individual on LinkedIn, you will most likely come away knowing their entire professional history, as well as the grade they achieved in their History A-Level over 10 years ago. Although 59% of LinkedIn users are age 25 to 34, compared to just 2.9% being over 55, an increasing number of gen-Z users view LinkedIn as their number one networking tool. 

Both platforms function to ensure that people can scrutinize either the aesthetic or professional lives of their colleagues, employers, or even the attractive barista that makes your macchiato every morning: the options are truly endless. Instagram clearly has its many advantages, but media coverage of its more sinister side is certainly not lacking. Many influencers primarily use Instagram to tackle the endemic low self-esteem it has arguably exacerbated, but can the same be said for LinkedIn? As with Instagram, LinkedIn functions to both unite and inspire its users, but can also induce self-loathing in the process. Posts about accepting failure and overcoming obstacles are certainly present on the platform, yet there are few individuals that dedicate their profiles to the sole promotion of self-love. 

Are there any positives? 

Both Instagram and LinkedIn were certainly not founded upon the desire to promote self-deprecation or low self-esteem. In fact, both platforms are extremely credible in their ability to unite like-minded individuals brimming with ambition. An Instagram search for #pride generates over 36 million posts from a multitude of individuals, all brought together by the shared desire for international inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Instagram allows you to scroll through a world that you cannot help but want to be a part of: a world of live concert videos, the most effective work-out routines, furry four-legged creatures (and the best part is, it's all completely free!). Continually adjusting the angle of your face to achieve the perfect selfie seems worth it when you are showered with compliments just minutes after posting, and feelings of empowerment ensue. 

If used in the correct way, LinkedIn also functions to connect motivated individuals aspiring to create a legacy. Often viewed as a neoliberal creation to further inspire professional individualism, LinkedIn can also encourage communitarianism. It can attract and inspire likeminded individuals, students, as well as the generally inquisitive. As with Instagram, not only can LinkedIn be used to construct and market your individual brand, but it can also help you to create professional relationships, sometimes without even meeting the other person. LinkedIn aims to create economic opportunity, presenting its members with a list of carefully curated potential jobs to apply to, as well as ways to promote the best version of yourself on the platform. 

The inevitable downsides 

No social media platform is devoid of detriments. Despite the innumerable body-positive influencers using Instagram to portray the power of self-love, it inadvertently exacerbates both self-hatred and envy. Whether someone goes abroad more than you, can bench even more weight than you, or has a thousand more followers than you, there is an endless number of individuals to examine and compare yourself to. In fact, 1 in 5 teenagers have said that Instagram has a negative effect on their self-esteem. Instagram shows us everything we see ourselves as lacking physically, as well as everything we could ever dream of possessing materially. 

     Source: wsj.com

Certain Instagram activists, such as confidence coach Jenny Gaither, are using their platforms to spread a new message: brains over beauty. Yet, human beings do not limit comparative analysis to material factors. In fact, around 10 percent of our thoughts centre around comparison. While being the most professionally successful is certainly not an indication of mental superiority, LinkedIn has become the leading mechanism to proudly exhibit what your brain has helped you to achieve. 

As a self-proclaimed country-bumpkin from the depths of rural Mid-Wales, arriving in a bustling metropolis to attend university was certainly out of my comfort zone. To encounter numerous individuals that were interested in the same topics as me, wished for the same career as me, and seemed to know three times as much as me, was a strange reality to be faced with. 

“Do you have LinkedIn? Why don’t you have LinkedIn? You should really get LinkedIn!” 

Surrendering yourself to the world of LinkedIn can be advantageous. You begin to understand that your peers are not only wishing for the same career as you, but seem to be already taking the necessary steps to achieve it. This can certainly motivate us to work hard to fulfil our ambitions. However, mental comparison is also a toxic hobby to engage in. Dream of being a writer? LinkedIn will assist you in finding over 30 other students that are already the editor-in-chief of their university newspaper. Created your own start-up company? The business magnate you idolise had already created three by the time they were 21. 

However, we do not only use LinkedIn to engage in upward comparisons, but also downward comparisons. I am ashamed to admit that I breathe a sigh of relief when I find a profile that is less impressive than my own. To judge success based on what others both have and have not achieved within the professional realm is something many of us are guilty of. With its Social Selling Index, LinkedIn makes it even easier to discover how you rank in comparison to your network. This inadvertently causes individuals, such as myself, to increasingly view self-worth as defined by professional success

Going forward 

On both Instagram and LinkedIn, there are ways in which we can make ourselves appear as the person we wish to become. The purpose of Facetune, a photo editing app used to cover up or enhance certain features, is not exclusive to Instagram. Around 71% of Brits choose to edit their selfies, and a research project directed by LendEDU found that 34% of participants admitted to lying to some degree on their LinkedIn profiles. 

It is easy to alter the truth about how long a job lasted for, and LinkedIn does not function to eradicate the invisibility of nepotistic connections. Nobody will suspect that you already knew your employer, who has been best friends with your parents since their first encounter while wine tasting in Bordeaux. So, when you are completing your ninth browse of the day on both Instagram and LinkedIn, it is vital to refrain from taking everything at face value and to remember that the playing field is not always level. 

                                                                 Source: lendedu.com

I certainly admire the countless individuals on Instagram that make neon skirts and pixie cut hairdos look cool, but I do not envy them, as you would never catch me wearing a neon skirt, and I would not suit a pixie cut. As someone who has endured a long-term battle with acne, I do envy the glowing spot-free individuals who permeate my Instagram feed, that sport a cloak of perfect skin. Similarly, successful bankers, prodigious pianists, or people that have built their own construction company from scratch are all individuals I admire, but do not envy. 

While I am quick to compare myself to likeminded individuals with similar career aspirations, I have never obsessed over the achievements of those I do not see myself as in competition with. Many people have achieved genuinely incredible things, in which they deserve to acknowledge and be proud of, but it is easy to obsess over all the ways we perceive them to be better than ourselves. What is not easy, is appreciating the ways in which we are successful, whether you are the founder of an international clothing brand, or you finally managed to look at supermodel Emily Ratajkowski’s Instagram page without loathing yourself. Victories come in all shapes and sizes, and they are plentiful when we actively try to look for them.


Lucy Thomas

Lucy is an undergraduate BSc Politics and International Relations student at the London School of Economics. She enjoys singing at open mic nights in her spare time.

LinkedIn: /in/lucy-thomas




LinkedIn and Instagram: Formidable Counterparts in a World Defined by Toxic Comparison Reviewed by Lucy Thomas on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 Rating: 5
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