From KONY 2012 to LinkedIn Endorsements: Why Effortless Clicktivism Means Nothing

Eileen Meng Lu  |

A third party endorsement can be a great way to gain trust and respect from others. However, LinkedIn (LNKD) endorsements mean nothing, because they’re too easy to give out to be taken seriously.

Recommendation Lite

Rather than spending a minute to write a genuine and authentic recommendation, endorsements are popular because people love the convenience of simply clicking “endorse.” Compared to LinkedIn “recommendations,” endorsements are recommendations-lite. The difference between recommendations and endorsements is with recommendatons, users have to take the time to write and explain what they recommend specifically. Endorsements, in comparison, costs just a simple click. In other social media companies like Facebook (FB) , it’s the same. It's easier to just “like” someone’s post than actually comment on it. 

In general, something that virally sweeps the internet via clicks reaps little practical actions in real life. I still remember how the anti-terrorist video KONY 2012: Invisible Children got twittered, forwarded and “liked” in all kinds of social media, calling for citizens to cover their cities with posters of the wanted Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony. The KONY 2012 Cover the Night campaign failed, with few appearances on the street at the midnight of the day promised. The fantasy that the whole world would be blanketed by the signature orange colored posters, compared to its unprecedented internet promotional period, was embarrasing. The movement’s phenomenal “success” on the internet was just the highly active bloggers and social media users’ online clicktivism.

Even only counting online behaviors, it’s always easier to click or comment on articles than actually read it and get inspired to do something. A hilarious example was NPR’s brilliant April fool’s prank on people who don’t read. On April 1 the news site published a prank article titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” with “congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools Day!” in the body. Some caught the joke but still many started to discuss America’s intellectual downfall in the comments. NPR then commented two days later “the real question isn't why we don't read anymore, it's why we comment— passionately and with the utmost confidence — after reading only a headline.”

Back to LinkedIn: likewise, “endorsements” mean nothing because they’re too easy, too simple, and too effortless. In contrast, it’s a lot more meaningful to have a recommendation genuinely written by colleagues or supervisors.

The Obligation to Endorse Back 

Besides the effortlessness of LinkedIn endorsements, sometimes the reason for endorsing others sheds doubts on the endorsemers’ original intention. This is how you get endorsed: you get endorsements through a notice from LinkedIn: “Your connection (...) has endorsed you for the following skills and expertise.” After you accept the endorsement, a notice pops up: “Now it’s your turn.” At this point, would you endorse back or close the window?

Probably you will at least endorse back anything as a courtesy. If it is the case, then the question is: do you really mean it when you endorse someone? Further, put yourself in others’ shoes, do people really know you when they endorse you? In many circumstances, someone barely knows you or someone you’ve never met endorses you, and asks for endorsement back. LinkedIn is so nice that even give you indications when you don’t know what to endorse others for. More often, I barely consider the skills LinkedIn recommended to me when I need to endorse others, and I’m just happy with how convenient it is. This inevitably leads to a meaningless but active “clicking” circle. Users endorse each other out of courtesy, with no true appreciation. 

But, why so serious?

Since the function of LinkedIn endorsement came out in 2012, users have loved it. If this is the case, then LinkedIn endorsement has rationalized its own existence. Cynics criticized passive “likes” online, but social media lovers never stop loving the function. If you view LinkedIn as just an online interactive platform, then it’s harmless to have some artificial social media-like functions.

In a nutshell, LinkedIn endorsements does not necessarily reflect real skills one owns, but are more often just a courtesy that don't actually mean anything to a potential employer. It’s harmless as an interactive tool for connecting, but for job recommendations it’s not ideal. You’d better think of better ways to make yourself stand out.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:

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