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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I believe LinkedIn began as an online forum whose members could use their resources to grow professionally. According to their website, they “want to help our members be more productive and successful. We do that by offering tools to network, build professional identity, and learn.”

LinkedIn at its beginning was a place to go to find like-minded professionals who might help grow your knowledge, to get introduced to people through their network of contacts, and to look for new business opportunities.

But lately, I’ve seen a trend that makes me think LinkedIn is no longer effectively meeting its purpose, and I think Facebook is to blame. That’s a pretty harsh accusation, I know, so let me explain.

For many, their Facebook friends (which I will abbreviate as FFs) are not really their friends; they’re more like acquaintances. One test you can use to determine if you agree is to ask yourself, how many of my FFs do I get together with at least once a year? (Long-distance family and friends don’t count.) A year is a pretty generous time frame, yet I bet a good fraction of your FFs didn’t pass this test. And Facebook is constantly suggesting more people you could “friend” based on the number of your friends who are also friends with them. How easy is it when you can expand your friend list with a click of the button. For some people those numbers matter. “I have 300 FFs, how ‘bout you?”

I think in LinkedIn’s early years, people only made contact with those they knew professionally. This does not seem to be the case anymore. Every time I log on to LinkedIn, the site greets me with a page of my email contacts with whom I might want to connect. I get emails from all sorts of people who wouldn’t be appropriate to add to my contact list on a professional social media site.

And endorsements? What’s happened to LinkedIn endorsements is a shame. My philosophy is to only endorse contacts for skills I know they have. Judging from who has endorsed me for certain skills, not everyone follows this philosophy. How would a realtor or a physical therapist know I’m skilled in FrameMaker? Do they even know what FrameMaker is? Unlikely. Yet when LinkedIn pops up a suggestion to endorse a contact for a particular skill, people click “Yes” just as easily as they click “Like” on Facebook. This makes the data on LinkedIn unreliable.

Fortunately, I think at present, we can count on written recommendations on LinkedIn. In this fast-paced, one-click world we live in, no one is willing to take the time to write about a person’s abilities if they don’t believe the person is qualified in skills X, Y, and Z. Thank goodness for that.

Do you think Facebook has hurt LinkedIn? I’d love to hear your thoughts.