Tuesday 31 May 2011

There's something really disturbing about LinkedIn writing discussions ...

I've been a member of LinkedIn for about the same time that I've been blogging. It's been useful in that I've found a few freelance jobs through it, but other than that, my profile sits undisturbed. About a year ago, I took part in some of the writing groups and discussions. One day I posted a query for some feedback and had members gang up on me. They were just plain nasty.

Despite me saying it was a rough draft and that I only needed feedback on the content, rather than grammar, etc, which I would fix up later (BIG MISTAKE), one woman battered me continuously, claiming that my spelling and grammar was so bad that she couldn't imagine how I thought of myself as a writer. There was one spelling mistake in the query, folks. Can't even remember what the grammar issue was. I got upset. I didn't say anything cruel in return, but I made it clear that I was offended. Then other contributors started taking her side and saying that if I couldn't handle a tiny bit of criticism, I wouldn't last. It wasn't tiny. It was an aggressive attack. Yikes! It wasn't called for. At all. So I stopped taking part. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from that incident.

Anyway, I'm bringing this up now because over the weekend I had a browse through the discussion topics for the first time since then, and read a few comments, and found myself feeling quite insulted despite them not being directed toward me. I guess that bitter taste still lingers. I began to wonder why so many of the group members that take the time to get involved in LinkedIn writing discussions are so competitive, pushy, arrogant and rude, and seem to be on the hunt for an easy way to sell their books. It's really weird. (Not all are like this, there are some lovely people, too.) However, generally they're nothing like the blogging community. There's no mutual support system. It's as if they believe they have the expertise and background to act as a teacher rather than a classmate. Do they feel safer there to speak what's really on their mind, because LinkedIn is a lot more private than Facebook and blogger? I'm intrigued. I want to know the psychology behind it.

I'm not going to quote anything from the discussions, because the groups are private and it wouldn't be right of me, so you'll just have to take my word for it. But let me ask you ...

Could you imagine yourself behaving differently on a more secure network than you do on your blog, for example? Would you feel more comfortable telling someone that their work sucked without being polite about it? Why/Why not? If not, why do you think some people are? Do you think it might stem from the possibility that these people are in it for the business, rather than the pleasure? With LinkedIn being a 'business' network, do you think they feel they should assume the voice of someone with power?

REMINDER: Have you signed up for my String Bridge Book & Music Blog Tour yet? If not, and you'd like to, just click HERE.

PSA friend of mine, Stephen Parrish, the author or The Tavernier Stones won an Independent Publisher (IPPY) gold medal earlier this month. (Congrats, Stephen!!!) His publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, has lowered the price of the Kindle version of the book from $9.99 to $2.99. On June 2 & 3 Kindle Nation will sponsor the novel as "Ebook of the Day" and a generous number of Kindle copies will be available free to interested readers.

If you would like one of these copies, pop on over to Stephen's Blog and let him know  There are no strings, there is no obligation. If too many people respond, names will be drawn randomly. Despite this, Amazon has further discounted the price to $2.39, so if you're one of the unlucky ones I nevertheless encourage you to take advantage of the bargain price before it goes up again. Everyone who gets a free copy should have it by 4th June.


  1. I'm on LinkedIn, but I have no idea why. I haven't had any use out of it. For all the cool people like you that I meet online, there are so many truly mean people online also, so many that I despair for humanity in general at times.

  2. I've never participated in any LinkIn writing discussion, and now I'm glad I haven't. I am, however, involved in other private writing/crit organizations. For me, I see my purpose there as the same as the blogging world: to be supportive and help a fellow writer out. There's an art to giving a wholesome critique full of encouragement, and sighting both positives and negatives about a piece. I don't understand the motivation in knocking someone down.

  3. I'm on LinkedIn too (just saw your invite to connect! need to get over there...). But like Ted, I don't know why. I'm not even sure how I found it, but I know I've never fully investigated what it does for a person. I think, since I don't work outside my home, I never figured it was a tool I'd need. I didn't know there were discussion forums. I'm intrigued and will check it out. Glad for your warning that it gets ugly over there. I think you have a point about people feeling more comfortable laying it out when the network is reserved for members only. Though, that just sucks. The Internet at large should be a community like any other. One should never address another person, a stranger, online in any way different than he would face-to-face with that person.

    Sorry you had that experience. Blogging writers are so awesome -- that must have really shocked and upset you. Stay over here, where we LOVE you!!! :D

  4. I'm on LinkedIn as well. I don't use it too much, and I definitely don't participate in any discussions (and after reading your post, will continue to avoid). The blogging community has been more than supportive, so this is where I consider my home.

    BTW - I thought it funny that they made comments like "you'll never last". Yet...your book is going to be published. Through a publisher. So it sounds to me like you did just fine. :)

  5. Personally, I think that *most* online forums are exactly like what you describe. I know the Amazon Discussion forums are. I also had some bad experiences at LibraryThing and quit using that site. And if you want to see some really crazy/nasty stuff, go to any news site (like cnn.com) and scroll down to the reader comments at the bottom.

    The blogging community, however, is a different story. Maybe it's because bloggers invest themselves in their blogs, and so they feel less anonymous.

    Or maybe the decent people who want to make positive connections were driven to blogging in the first place because discussion forums were so awful -- while the trolls in those forums would never blog, because they wouldn't want to expose themselves to the light.

  6. I've never been to linkedin, there are only so many sites you can be part of and i can't even blog on a regular basis, but I think i know what you're taking about. i signed up to a website for authors helping each other (i think it's a harpercollins site) but the atmosphere was fake, nobody wanted to really help unless you gave them kudos or stars or whatever in order for their story to go up into the ranking. needless to say i left very quickly again.

    and about the grammar critism - one hasn't got anything to do with the other. in fact i know of a very popular writer with dyslexia. it's the story that counts.

  7. Well that just sucks!

    I am on LinkedIn like most I guess, but haven't used it much so I'm not sure how the discussions work.
    I wonder if blogging is more of a direct link back to the individual and their work so people may tend to be kinder because they want love too, whereas in LinkedIn they can blow you a new one and not think twice? Again, I really don't know how the discussions work over there though so this could be totally wrong.
    Either way, I will never understand why people can't just give constructive critisism. Do they think tearing you apart is going to build you up?
    Clearly you are doing something right with your book coming out a rough draft is a rough draft for crying out loud:)

  8. I think I'm on Linkedin, not sure. But to answer your question, I don't change who I am in discussion groups and so sorry you had to endure that. I liked your comment that some people feel like they're teachers rather than classmates. I think people connect with other people for positive feedback and there are ways to critique without slamming. I too was critiqued hard one time and it had a lasting effect.

  9. LinkedIn is supposed to be a network for your professional life, where you show off your resume. Their forums are where you share your expertise. I think that translates to, "I must show that I know it all and even better than the next guy." I've lurked a little on one of the writing groups but haven't become involved. Don't think I will now. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Good topic Jessica. I wondered how others viewed LinkedIn (though I have not tried the writer's area that you describe).

  11. I haven't joined that network, lack of time and all that. This isn't encouraging though. Who needs that? Perhaps the faultfinders understand all too well how fragile writers egos are.

  12. Messageboards in general tend to have a group mentality, where cliques form and outsiders are often bashed for unknown reasons. Plus there's also the mentality that everyone is an "expert" and MUST push their opinions down your throat in front of everyone, so as to make themselves look better. Or to feel better about themselves. They pretend that they are in control and superior, but their actions betray their real motive, to be admired and looked upon as the shining example of what a real writer (or whatever) is. It's pathetic.

  13. I've never participated on LinkedIn and now I'm a little glad I haven't.

    I find the blogging community very supportive. This is where I'll stay. =)

  14. Humility is the main ingredient for feedback groups. When it is absent, so am I.

  15. So interesting. I have never even looked for LinkedIn discussions and now I'm glad. I think the difference MAY be in that LinkedIn was born out of corporate networking rather than creative... businessy folks can ber competitive and arrogant and it sounds like that has seeped into the overall gestault over there. I ALWAYS try to be cognizant of the kind of feedback someone requests. Generally, I only ASK for my specific, nitpicky stuff by email to a trusted few (on occasion in a FB note where I tag a few people, and I can see using the ABNA pitch thread). When I post it on the blog, I want opinions in a more broad way or I ask for the specifics I'd like.

    People on those boards Nathan Bransford runs can occasionally get all superior and haughty, but they generally aren't actually nasty and some boards have nice people. (still love my bloggie pals best)

  16. I don't think being supportive and non-judgmental comes naturally to most people, Jessica. It's too easy to feel threatened by people you view as competition. I don't think it has anything to do with the venue.

    You may remember my Writing Show interview with Maralys Wills, in which she mentioned that she was once in a critique group with Elizabeth George, the extremely successful mystery writer (she writes the Inspector Lynley stories, which have been made into a long-running PBS Mystery series). It seems that many of the people in that group would tear Ms. George's work to pieces. Maralys herself thought the work was perfect, and being a huge Elizabeth George fan, I can easily imagine that being the case.

    I suspect that these people felt threatened and were attempting to make themselves feel better by dissing their competition. And it sounds to me like the same thing is happening in these discussion groups.

    It's easy to identify insecure people: they're the ones belittling others. So my feeling is that when you see that happening, you should feel sorry for them and move on. They're just embarrassing themselves.

  17. People on forums seem to behave differently, more aggressively (private or public). Maybe because it is more accessible to the masses. Blogs you join read, comment, build a community of sorts. Forums have people come and go. It is worth studying.

    And no, I would not post differently in a private forum. That faceless name is still a person that deserves respect (well until they have a typo of course - j/k - big smile).

  18. Personal attacks are just wrong! And I can't imagine behaving differently whether it's online or in person. Stick with the community here, because it is so supportive!

  19. i've always been hesitant to join LinkedIn, it gives me a bad feeling (also, the few people who asked me to friend them or whatever, were people i didn't really want to be associated with). Hearing this story makes me want to avoid it even more.

  20. I can't get into LinkedIn (figuratively) -- it just doesn't do it for me.

    You only need to look at nasty nasty Amazon reviews under usernames to see that people hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to be quite vicious, 'secure' network or not.

  21. I'd point out grammar if I thought the other person might not find it, but I don't think the extra stuff you were describing has any place.

  22. I guess I'm not posting on LInkdein boards very soon then. Maybe I should get a profile there, though.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  23. i'm on there, but just... have yet to post a thing, or join any group...

    in my experience, those who belittle others' efforts are the least capable themselves, not only in their 'art', but also in their personal lives... truly talented folk take no pleasure in knocking anyone, but rather offer encouragement, and advice... when asked

    easy for me to say, but like kris kristofferson said to sinead o'connor: don't let the bastards grind you down!

  24. I always try to be polite to people. I would NEVER flat out say to someone that their work sucks. I REALLY don't understand people like that. Plus, I think people like that actually feel threatened by talent and try to bring said talented person down a notch or ten. Hate that. If I am jealous of someone's talent I am honest enough to SAY it. I feel no need to make other people feel like shit about their work or writing.

  25. I don't care what form of media is used, kindness never goes out of style. And an honest critique doesn't need to be brutal to be efficient. I've been invited to LinkedIn a number of times but this makes me glad I've not accepted.

  26. I've always been hesitant to participate in online forums with a high level of anonymity. I think it often brings out the mob approach.

    The blogging community is, as noted, absolutely amazing!

  27. I'm a member of LinkedIn just because a few friends asked to be my friends on it. I help friends when I can. I joined, but I have zero interaction with it.

    My best friend, Sandra (a former psychologist) said that sadly most people were only as good as their options -- which explains the madness when city lights go out.

    Try to remember what people say says more about them than you. Nasty people give birth to nasty comments.

    Oscar Wilde had it right : the best revenge is to live well. Have a great mid-week, Roland

  28. Hmm... I only joined Linkedin last week, but thanks for the head-up. Now I'll only invite people I know from the bloggosphere.

    I'm in no mood for bitching.


  29. I didn't even know LinkedIn *had* discussions!
    Love the new look to your blog, by the way.

  30. I had no idea such discussion existed on LinkedIn. But I have some complaints about it too.

    I've been on it for years, but it was always just a simple social network for connecting professionals who have actually worked together. I was connected to people at my company. Now everyone wants to be friends on there, and I just don't see the point. It's not Facebook.


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris