Why fewer ad hominem attacks on LinkedIn?

There’s an archetype of a hypercompetitove, successful businessperson. I’d expect this person to be kind of cut throat and brutally honest.

I’d also expect this person to be active on LinkedIn. (At least at one point in LinkedIn’s history).

So, why are ad hominem attacks so uncommon on LinkedIn… and much more common on basically every other social medium? It seems counterintuitive – someone active on LinkedIn has an incentive to bring down their competitors and all… and what better way to do that than through ad hominem attacks.

Ok, I’m being admittedly dense right now. But I can think of a few reasons why ad hominem attacks are so rare:

1. Reputation is more important on LinkedIn; so people play it safer

We like to think that we can be different people on different platforms. The person I am on LinkedIn is certainly different than the person I am on Snapchat. But on Snapchat, I don’t have as much to lose.

On LinkedIn, I’m much more risk averse. I play in the middle because alienating somebody potentially means losing business or not getting a job. There’s no reason to stick my neck out if I don’t think the upside is very high.

2. The market acts as an arbiter in disagreements; so there’s no need for nastiness

Say I make a claim on LinkedIn that some new social media platform is going to blow up; everyone should advertise on it, invest in it, etc.

If you disagree with me, and are pretty confident, then who cares? There’s no sense in engaging in a debate with me if you know the market will punish me for being wrong. In fact, it’s probably in your best interest if I keep thinking I’m right — more money on the losing side of the bet for you to gain.

On the other social media platforms, though, the disagreements usually are not settled by a market arbiter. If I say, “the ACA is the worst piece of legislation ever.” Well, there’s nowhere for me to put my money where my mouth is. No obvious mechanism to tell me that I was right or wrong five years down the line. (People might disagree on that point, but realistically, five years from now Dems are going to say it was a success and GOPs are going to say it was a failure regardless of “objective” measures.)

So, my friends call me stupid until either I come around to their way of thinking or I leave the circle of friends who were calling me stupid.

In the end, I think it all comes down what each platform is trying to achieve. In a truly “social” platform, if the goal is to make friends, and from social groups, then those groups need a mechanism to weed out who should be members vs. not.

A business platform, though, people’s opinions don’t really matter all that much. I go on LinkedIn for new business opportunities … not to galvanize my social network.


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