LinkedIn: The 4th time is a charm?

I’ve deleted my LinkedIn profile a lot. In retrospect, this was silly. Not because I care, but rather because the only thing worse than a LinkedIn profile is a LinkedIn profile with few connections and/or recommendations.

I’ve deleted in the past because I don’t see the utility for me, personally. But I recreated my profile again a few weeks ago for the fourth time. Why? To fill in gaps for the uninitiated. 

My own analytics, coupled with fragments of web searches make it hard to really understand what I’ve been doing the past few years. It can be confusing even to people who’ve been talking to me a lot during that time. I suppose it’ll be a blog post in the making someday reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’m headed, but in the meantime…I figured it made sense to have some kind of coherent narrative for the voyeurs and other curious folks.

Alas, I re-created my LinkedIn profile for the 4th time. My original plan was to just leave it there, tell no one really and not add any connections. But then people found me, so…I figure I should just make a big deal out of it and post about it.

Except, not really.

Life as a Like Button

Remember when online newspaper articles didn’t have comments on them? It’s such an interesting idea to see what people are thinking. It’s like bringing the watering hole to your house in a sense, without having to sit with misfits and folks you might not have anything to speak with. But something is lost in the process.

Sometimes, there’s just nothing to say. Other times, you want to marinate first and then say something after reflecting for a while. Or at least, I find it’s better this way.

But in the rush to be “first!” to comment or make a point, something gets lost. I was having a perpetual conversation with a friend who has one toe dipped into the social media pool, but not her whole self. I mentioned using Flickr and integrating it into a blog she’s building. Her reply was “I’m not like you. I don’t like putting myself all the way out there.”

I laughed about this, because it’s all a matter of relativity. I look at my online circle and feel like I’m reserved because I don’t put everything out there. What’s out there now is really a function partially of my own interest, but the personal things are really about being realistic. That is, if you’re doing public facing work in the slightest, in an era where people are going to google you to find out more about you; the least you can do is present context for what’s out there in your own words. To do anything else is shooting yourself in the foot and then trying to run a marathon.

But I thought about my perpetual love/hate relationship with particular social tools and my evolving use of them. I miss conversations with actual people in far-flung places that gets trivialized by the ease of reach. Everyone is busy living their own personal rat race and sometimes, what gets lost is the intimacy of getting lost

I’m talking about the thrill of re-discovering things. Old records, dusty baseball cards and people. We haven’t lost this as a society, but if you’re connected digitally the frivolity with which relationships are dispense is almost troubling. 

Perhaps this is much ado about nothing. Maybe I’m just musing on anecdotal experiences which have little application in the aggregate? I can’t put a finger on that to be sure. It’ll be research for sometime in the near future, I suppose.

The moments I speak of still exist. Life is full of vibrant connections and re-connections. Things that come and go, deep conversations and superfluous one alike. In the culture of “Like” everything can be trivialized. Not just what you say, but when you say it and how. The more I notice it, the more likely I am to work to develop some kind of defense against it.

Marketing College in Dystopia

This isn’t the title to a science fiction story I’m writing. It is the story playing out right now in the court of public opinion. In the wake of the New York Times story earlier this week about the crush of student loan debt load in the U.S., I was struck by a lot of the comments by people who’d gone to college in the 1980s who lamented the hightail lifestyle of students who “live in palatial suites, trying to maintain middle class lifestyles in college” and “major in useless subjects like ethnic studies and philosophy.” (Because business is apparently a lot better?)

This isn’t news to most folks who’ve been around higher education. With the news bubbling to the surface, it’s a conversation that’s going to end up in more offices and meeting rooms. The usual answers won’t be enough and often the people charged with putting a shine on the dullness of a particular scenario don’t get a lot of say in the mechanics of the actual changes. (Which themselves might be hampered by other issues…)

My big question is, amidst these doomsday conversations and the shift to develop more market-relevant programming at cash-poor colleges, are there broader implications for how folks in higher education marketing make the case for the true value of a college education to debt-riddled millennials and their future children?

College marketing has changed beyond just the superficial changes to the application process and the rise of the social web. Marketing to a generation that’s been weaned on products more than ever before, boast more disposal income than their youthful predecessors and are being born to the parents who increasingly boast their own debt loads in the tens of thousands.

There’s been a decent buzz in hacker circles (and others) about Paypal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel effectively calling out higher education.

Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

Thiel started a program giving twenty people under 20 $100,000 to start a company if they drop out of college. He has plenty of supporters who think this is just what’s needed to disrupt the grip college has on future prospects for young people who they believe don’t need it. Others disagree.

It’s something we haven’t questioned much, because for a lot of us we’ve seen the demonstrable effects of what a college education can do in a competitive world. It’s not about the degree itself. It’s a combination of access to perspectives, relationships and opportunities that you simply don’t get sitting at your local coffee shop, at your house or without access to capital.

These are all good things and I’m sure folks are thinking of many more. But how do you make the compelling marketing case for absorbing (sometimes) massive debt? The global economy has changed the game for a lot of folks. Is it just an issue of motivation? Willing students to choose more “practical” programs? 

What ought to be more practical is the approach to marketing a world dominated by sound-bites and user-generated content. Outcomes are fine, but they’re not the only thing people need to see. In a fractured world, it seems the best way to combat misinformation is to provide real information. It takes work, it takes time and the sort of patience and creativity that doesn’t often get stimulated.

If we don’t look under some rocks to uncover it, the fallout is going to be something that surprises people and there won’t be anything left to do but pick up the pieces.