The Vermin in Our Virtual World: What Has Happened to Linked In, My Phone…..
Dear Reader, you can skip right to the bottom of this piece and get a link that might be useful if you want to start either protecting or erasing your online presence. Just saying.
The message was just like all of them: “Hi Julia, I happened to come across your profile.”
No you didn’t.You were doing a keyword search.
“We share a lot of contacts.”
Lots of folks have connected to me that I have never done business with or even spoken to. Or emailed, for that matter.
“I reviewed your profile.”
Um, no you didn’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be writing me. Because this:
“I can help you write a book. I just know you have a book inside you.”
Yep. In fact, two of them. Multiple prize-winning books, in fact.
And because this:
“I can help you explode your sales! I can teach you how to sell to big companies!”
Actually I’ve kind of been doing that for more than 17 years.
“I can teach you how to sell high-value coaching packages.”
I’m not a coach. Don’t have the credentials. Had you read my profile that would have been very very clear.
“I can help you as a fitness and nutrition professional. Join my online group.”
I’m not a fitness and nutrition professional. I AM fit. And I AM a professional. Reading the profile might have been instructive.
One of my Medium peeps wrote me that I’m likely interacting with a bot. I have no doubt he’s absolutely right. However, what’s behind every bot is a forest tick.
Here’s what I mean:
Being on Linked In these days is very much like walking through an eastern forest in summer. If you’re an Easterner like I am, you grew up with ticks. They didn’t used to be a problem, now they really are. That’s a good analogy for the growth of online abusers. Didn’t used to be a problem, now they are.
Go to sleep with your tent left open and you wake up covered with them. End product these days with ticks? Among other things, you could end up being allergic to red meat. Interesting. Same thing on Linked In. I end up being allergic to online abusers.
Kindly I am making an important distinction here: online abusers.
If you’ve ever had to remove a forest tick, you can understand the analogy. They are pernicious, can carry disease, and are hugely annoying. They suck your blood and sometimes infect you the same way Linked In online abusers and scammers suck your time and money and infect you with anger and helpless frustration. The only way to protect yourself is either to stay out of the forest entirely, or spray yourself with some heavy duty, industrial strength OFF.
Just as I recently canned my Facebook account and have lately been enjoying a great deal more life, time, and pleasure, I now am looking closely at how much the online invasion through Linked In ( I never look at Twitter, don’t have a Pinterest Account or any thing else for that matter) also spikes my blood pressure. I have culled my closets in the same way.
I am also culling social media. Because I can. Because for my peace of mind, I have to. So I shut down all future Linked In emails and invitations. That’s about the only way I can prevent this. What saddens me is that I prefer an open environment and the opportunity to expand. I can’t have that without getting all the detritus along with it. I wish it were just once in a while. It’s all the time. In the small space it has taken me to rewrite a few paragraphs I got five of those emails, and more were landing as I shut the feed off.
This isn’t everyone. Not at all.
Here’s the thing. I just got an email from a Medium.com peep who pointed out (quite rightly) that there are folks who are doing their best to earn a living. Acknowledged. I’d agree that some folks are.
However I would make the distinction that there are ways to do this that don’t insult our intelligence, invade our space, or fill our respective inboxes with so much stuff that it feels like a warring horde. If it were just once in a while, it would indeed be the “odd person” doing this. The problem is that this is constant, at least in my world, probably because of the nature of what I do.
What differentiates those who are worth connecting with vs. those run by bots are people who actually do take the time to read our profiles, point out something that we actually do have in common, and thereby establish the beginning of a genuine personal connection. That takes work, it takes time, and it takes caring enough about other people and their sensibilities.
I would make the comparison to those who have taken the time to comment, share, challenge and invite me to be better on Medium. Those are people that I get invested in. I read their stuff. Care about what they think and feel. There are times- as today- that a comment or two caused me to rethink and rewrite a piece. That’s genuinely valuable. I would no more pitch products and services to these good folks than I would attempt to sell used condoms door to door in my own neighborhood.
Because this IS my neighborhood. Yours, too. And that’s the whole point.
This wholesale “paint the Universe and hope that something sticks” is precisely what frustrates me (and I admit it)- and what makes it increasingly difficult to trust anyone on line any more. I certainly don’t trust the incessant, all day long calls that come from overseas trying to part me from my pennies.
I don’t mind cooling off the tone of my rant, and I value the feedback.
However, the challenge remains-precisely the same way it does in the non-virtual world- to make the effort to invest in a potential client. To identify whether or not there really is a fit. To establish whether you can solve a problem for your potential client, based on having actually done that research.
In Linked In, read the profile. Go to peoples’ websites. Do the work. This is what gets you and me top notch clients. So when someone sends me an email telling me they can teach me how to get top clients but yet they are demonstrating that they clearly don’t know how to do it, you can understand the disconnect. Most folks apparently don’t see it. This is where some solid self-assessment is pretty useful.
So, like many other friends of mine, I no longer accept Linked In invitations, especially when they begin with greetings like the above. The template is widely shared in precisely the same way that my phone number has become a widely-shared commodity among scammers. So in this way, it’s no different than the folks who call me up telling me that the IRS is about to drag me off to the cops, which of course is right about the time I am banking my $11k tax refund.
In fact, this brings up another important point. I no longer even answer my phone unless I recognize the number. Nine out of ten calls I get every single day, day after day, week after week are scammers. It’s an incessant drumbeat. I feel as though my person is being invaded through every single orifice available- those orifices being every single social media avenue that we have as a society created “as a convenience. To connect people.” I honestly believe they began with that intention. Then the system filled up with more and more folks who didn’t exactly see the community quite the same way.
That’s precisely the case. We are, all of us, nothing more than walking wallets, devoid of value, except as we can line someone else’s bank account with our retirement funds. Again, to my friend’s point, not all, but too many.
Refusing to answer my phone may occasionally cost me a potential client. However from the scammers who walk my neighborhood within minutes after a hailstorm (Oh, but we just happened to be in the neighborhood…This is a very sophisticated system.) to all of those mining my personal data to see what I’m going to spend my money on next, stay off my doorstep.
I still get the occasional legitimate invitation from people I do know and trust. The community still has plenty of good people with whom I’d like to be connected, and folks that would make sense to reach out. The problem is that they have become just as wary as I am of scammers, bots and abusers. Many don’t accept my invitation for the same reasons I listed above. They’re legitimately afraid I’m going to slam them with a sales pitch. I don’t blame them one bit.
I accept invitations largely from those whom I’ve met already and trust. For others I review their profiles. If they are consultants who sell to people like me,
DELETE. BLOCK. REPORT.
If there is good news to be gleaned from all this, here’s my hope: all this impersonal, bot-driven evil will force us to take the time to get to know each other locally. Or, if we do business out of state and internationally, get on a plane and get face to face. That’s a really, really good thing.
As I continue to slam the virtual doors to invading social media online abusers, I spend more time talking to and getting to know folks who really matter. People I am happy to invest in and encourage and mentor and be mentored by. People I’d be delighted to ask over for dinner, share coffee with, email regularly or in other ways engage with directly. REAL people whose lives I care about.
In other words, the potential large-scale response to the monsters that we’ve created is to go back to what’s real. Face to face interactions. Networking, in person, with real outcomes and real risks. I’ve taught that skill for more than 35 years. What matters to me are people I can see, touch, listen to, talk to, and care about. Invest in. Those clients get my absolute best work. I’m not interested in “monetizing” them. I am invested in watching them succeed. For that I suspect I might get paid a pretty penny because they get it that I genuinely care.
So frankly, if we collectively get offended enough, and sick and tired of having our blood drained, we might actually go back to building our communities. Dump online communities. And here’s the piece: you can add fifty online “friends” to your vast collection. It won’t change the quality of your life one whit. Add one or two real friends, and your happiness skyrockets.
Wow. Funny thing how that works.
The other day I accepted an invitation from a sales manager at a company where I do regular training. I like him. I trust him. I am invested in his success. That’s a coffee I am looking forward to with real pleasure.
To the rest of the vermin:
To those of you Dear Readers who made it this far, here’s a sweet goodie that landed about six seconds ago Mountain Daylight Time here in Denver:
Remove yourself from people search sites and erase your online presence | ZDNet
There is now a very thin line, easily broken, which separates our physical and digital identities. Social networks have…
This is kinda timely. For anyone like me who is increasingly interested in regaining our own sense of privacy and boundaries, this might be worth your time. I am going to do this.