The LinkedIn Industrial Complex

I have attempted to make a LinkedIn profile twice in my life.


Originally published in Edition 2 (2022) of Farrago. 


I have attempted to make a LinkedIn profile twice in my life.

The first time was when I was fresh out of high school with barely any experience to speak of. I did not end up registering though because of this growing feeling of being unable to justify its utility.

The second was a few months ago. This time I did complete account creation. Yet, as I was filling out my profile with experience and achievements, I could not shake off a sense of disgust. Disgust at the idea of recording every productive act in my life and breaking it down into a series of buzzword-laden skill descriptions—only for the potential employers to scrutinise as they consider whether I am savvy enough in the LinkedIn lingo, whether my display picture gives off professional yet wholesome vibes, whether the entire course of my life listed before them in neat, dot-point form satisfies their Key Assessment Criteria™.

I stopped there and deleted my account.

I did not really examine this revulsion until months later when I was reading an old article by the philosopher Mark Fisher, titled ‘The Privatisation of Stress’, in which he articulates how workplace stresses had grown to infect the entirety of the contemporary worker’s life. We are compelled to “be [our] own auditors”, to make ourselves eternally available to the whims and wants of employers, to be always engaging in professional development.

The contemporary CV is the crown jewel of this privatisation of stress, the blood diamond whose violent glint is brightest in the lives of those entering the labour market.

Fisher quotes another article by the blogger Savonarola, titled ‘Curriculum mortis’, which brings greater focus to this issue of the CV: “[We] are obliged not just to over fulfill the plan, but to record—with the exacting eye of a Big Other meting out his next-to-last judgment—every single one of [our] productive acts. The only sins are sins of omission.” Savonarola goes on to compare the plight of the post-industrial worker to that of the Soviet Stakhanovites, labourers who would work harder than necessary in the name of strengthening the socialist state. The modes of production may differ, but both are united in their production of a “permanent undercurrent of debilitating anxiety”.

What lends this anxiety its permanence is of course the collapse of the work-life divide, plus the fact that there is no ultimate standard by which one can judge themselves. No amount of work will make you safe from being tossed away by your employer. One need look no further than our very own University of Melbourne, where academics with illustrious careers are made redundant with disturbing ease. As the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard (quoted by Savonarola) puts it, “we will never play the whore enough, we will never be dead enough.”

And the worst thing about this is that you internalise it until the “exacting eye” is not that of the “Big Other” but yourself. Everything in your life becomes viewed through the prism of the CV. This is not to say that it is unethical to list mundane things like your hobbies in your CV, but rather that there are psychological consequences to existing in such a system, where leisure loses its function as an escape from labour to instead become yet another submissive servant of labour.

Despite my valiant rallying against the LinkedIn industrial complex, I am no exception here. I do have a CV, in which you can find things I would never have imagined putting on a CV when I signed up to do them. My experiences with high school debating have been broken down into neat references to teamwork and public speaking skills (now mostly eroded by COVID-19). Short stories I had published in my teen years have found their way into the ‘Publications’ section at the end, as if to demonstrate I am a serious writer when, in reality, they were written just for fun and published by happenstance. Even the act of making friends has been translated into me possessing a so-called “affable personality”.

And I confess, the “exacting eye” is now what I see with. Each new uni club is one I can list in my CV to give the illusion of me being a cultured schmooze. Each volunteering opportunity is a chance to project my commitment to social justice. Each story I write is another notch in the belt of my ‘Publications’ section.

Admittedly, even this story will find its way into my CV. I apologise, but “the only sins are sins of omission.”

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