I’m up late tonight. My watch is set to sleep mode, which means that I won’t be notified of 3 am emails from my teachers (who are always preaching about getting more sleep) or texts from my friends wondering how I did on the latest violin test. But it doesn’t matter–I’m about to stay up for another hour scrolling through social media, catching up on all the stuff I missed during the day.
My glasses are smushed against the side of my face when I turn sideways to rest my arm comfortably next to my pillow. I squint at the bright screen in the oblivion of darkness that is my room and tug Chimchim, my stuffed bear, closer to tuck him under my chin.
My eyes are drooping. I feel it. Scrolling through Instagram gets old quickly, and so does Twitter. I flip through my home screen knowing that if I fall asleep now, I’ll lose the precious minutes I could be spending doing productive things, like answering the emails waiting in my inbox or doing some last-minute studying for the history quiz I have tomorrow.
Then LinkedIn pops up after an accidental tap, and suddenly I’m transported. Numbers are everywhere —the words “success” and “job search” and “resumé” find their way into my dreary vision. I go on a connection spree for a couple of minutes, then I switch over the jobs tab and scroll, and scroll and scroll.
It’s not that I’m even qualified for most of the jobs that interest me — most requiring at least a bachelor’s degree. I’m a senior, which you’d think is close enough, but only out of high school. I’m not even in college yet.
But here I am, spending hour after hour scrolling through the jobs page. I dread the moment that I’ll accidentally tab over to my feed and see all the stories of triumph from my much more talented, experienced, and educated connections.
I was always told that LinkedIn was a need, not a want like Instagram or a time-wasting spiral of doom like Twitter. Creating a LinkedIn account was a coming-of-age ceremony, like when you buy a girl her first Kate Spade bag and say “Hurrah, you’re a woman now.”
It’s come to the point that I’ve gotten notifications from students in the grades below me asking to connect. I know that if they’re anything like me, they’re starting to spiral down a road of comparing themselves to older students, never mind the fact that we’ve got at least a year or two on them. I’d tell them to stop basing the value of their accomplishments on other people’s, but that would be hypocritical of me because it’s exactly what I do.
LinkedIn is not necessary for high school kids. Do I think that building a resumé or keeping track of extracurricular activities and volunteer work is important? Absolutely! The difference, however, in my experience with LinkedIn, is that I see it as a ticking time bomb. LinkedIn perpetuates the idea that teens should know what they are doing with their lives, never mind that there are two or three years left of high school for them to explore their interests. LinkedIn breeds competition, pushing kids to view their peers’ and connections’ profiles, many of which are packed with awards, accomplishments and work experience. Lacking in any of these fields means that your profile is viewed as “weaker.” You don’t get a metaphorical (or literal) star for even attempting to better yourself by joining LinkedIn if you haven’t fit the bill for the standard user.
While platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Tiktok encourage kids to socialize and allow them to express themselves, LinkedIn is an entirely different playing field. LinkedIn encourages corporate communications and creating a personal “brand” for yourself, which for many, means creating the facade of being the perfect person. Oftentimes this pressure to pretend that you know everything about yourself, what you want to do, and where you’re going to end up in life, is crushing for high school kids.
Let kids be kids! We should be encouraging high schoolers to enjoy what’s left of their secondary education and explore the different interests that they might have, not pressuring them to have everything figured out — that’s for their adult selves to discover.
Sometimes scrolling on LinkedIn makes me feel like I’m five again and strutting through the house in my mother’s heels. But this time, it doesn’t feel like all fun and games anymore.
Parents, if you’re reading this: do not pressure your high schooler to create a LinkedIn profile just yet. Instead, help them keep track of their work experience, extracurricular activities, and awards on their own. Teach them that their value is much more than a few words on the page, or a number that, at this time, might feel like it defines them.
They’ll thank you in the future once they’re ready to take that step and open doors on their own.