An allergic response can run the gamut from a mild, localized itch to an all-out assault on the immune system. Some allergies, as we know, can bypass a state of temporary discomfort, and can be debilitating or life-threatening. Specific foods (e.g., peanut oil, shellfish), industrial chemical compounds (e.g., latex, metals), environmental pollutants, and animal or insect toxins can trigger anaphylactic shock or cause sudden death. What about a hypersensitivity to social networking? Can some people actually be allergic to LinkedIn?
In summer 2013, a woman executive at a prominent downtown Chicago bank, to whom I was referred by a trusted colleague, engaged me for individual LinkedIn coaching. Prior to meeting, she confessed to not knowing the first thing about LinkedIn. In fact, she did not have a LinkedIn account. I told her that I would be very gentle.
When she greeted me at her office, I sensed that she was a bit uptight. She looked a little pale, too. As we waited for my laptop to boot up, she happens to mention, “JD, I have to be honest with you. The thought of actually having to do LinkedIn turns my stomach.”
“Is that right?” I said with a chuckle.
“No, I mean it,” she responded. “I get physically ill when I so much as look at my computer. I can’t stand this social media stuff. The only reason that you’re here is because my company insists that I be on LinkedIn.”
Having previously engaged with a more than a few technophobes, I could tell that she was serious. I assured her that what she was feeling was not unique—many people experience anxiety or stress over learning a new skill—and I was going to help her get over any hurdles. She told me her palms were sweating.
I pressed her for more details as to why she felt so pained. “Because I am in a business development role,” she replied. “I need more clients. I have a quota to hit. Everyone is telling me that I have to start doing LinkedIn. I understand that it is important, and I would like to learn how to do it, but I don’t feel it is something that I will be able to do.”
Hoping to ease her into the session, I gestured toward my computer and explained that people who sell for a living are using LinkedIn with great success. “This is not hard once you know where everything is and can execute a few simple strategies,” I explained. “I can teach you.”
So I spent the next two hours applying a little positive psychology. We created her account. I crafted a few paragraphs of content for her LinkedIn profile, and walked her through basic LinkedIn navigation. She relaxed and began to pick up some things. At the end, I gave her a few actionable steps and insisted that any time that she can spend on LinkedIn will be quality time for her business.
Making a Case for Social Networking Hypersensitivity
Hypersensitivity is defined as an extreme or pathological sensitivity to an allergen, a substance or agent that induces an immune response. Whereas there is no scientific evidence that social networking causes the body to produce antibodies, I have witnessed an immune response of sorts in people averse to the activity. Their mucous membranes may not inflame; their skin may not break out in a rash; they may not sneeze in series; but there is a physiological change.
Social Networking Hypersensitivity, as I call it, can be a barrier to progress in today’s Digital Era. The pressure to keep current with technology is a known cause of stress. For some folks, the idea of building or participating in an online community—whether forced upon them, or by their own volition—is met with resistance. LinkedIn becomes a battleground that they will avoid altogether.
As for my bank executive client?
Since we did our work, I have checked in with her periodically. Soon after our session, she took the initiative on LinkedIn. She added a professional headshot, updated her LinkedIn profile, and added a few dozen connections. She reports that she is on the site once or twice a week, but reaches a threshold and has to stop after a few minutes. Kudos to her for the effort.
♦ Physical allergies can be devastating to productivity. They wreak havoc on your immune system, shorten attention span, and derail critical thinking. In business, a really bad allergy day can zap your energy, as well as your productivity, causing you to postpone important projects and cancel appointments.
♦ Extreme cases of social networking hypersensitivity may serve as a reliable indicator of something with a deeper root cause. Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, processing errors, and chronic illness are all issues that will affect performance on LinkedIn and impede the ability to conduct online and offline business affairs.
♦ I’m not a doctor, nor do I play on one TV. Treatment and management for a LinkedIn allergy may seem comical. Yet for those who experience it, hypersensitivity to social networking (computer work in general) is quite real. Unfortunately, there are no shots or over-the-counter meds that will desensitize one from LinkedIn exposure.
If you want to do it, then you will just have to grin and bear it.
Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on LinkedIn. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top LinkedIn strategists, a thought leaders in personal branding and social networking, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Forbes.
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