Why I (B)Linked Out

The importance of self-assessment

By David Magnusson  |   May 17, 2018

Catchy title huh? Caught your attention, right? Okay. Rest easy. There is nothing nefarious here. I am not going through any sort of crisis. There is no turmoil. It is merely a play on words.  In fact, I could have titled this article, “The Dangers of Social Media and the Long and Winding Road it Puts You On.” Yeah, I thought so. My original title is far better. 

How it Started

Here is my initial analysis. I joined LinkedIn in 2008. In that time, I attained 2,300 contacts. Not a bad number. But in theory, that is merely 230 contacts a year (fewer than one a day).  Of the 2,300 contacts, I kept in consistent touch with about 150 of the contacts, which are called a demeaning “followers.” That’s but 5% of all my contacts. 

So what about those with 10,000-plus “followers”? Do they really keep in general touch with all 10,000? Or perhaps just 5% Like me? Five hundred people out of 10,000? So what does that say for the other 95%? Furthermore, in an analysis of my contacts, the minority, not the majority, had anything to do with my chosen career or interests. So why did I accept invitations or send invites? Is it but a numbers game? I know for sure that as you get to a certain level of contacts (followers) you achieve a better status. Am I using people for my own gain?  Hell, that would make me a phony. I am pretty sure I am not that.

There is a phenomenon known as “algorithms.” In a nutshell, the algorithms dictate who will see your comments. I often pondered, suppose I put out the chemical formula for a cancer cure, would only a handful of people see it? Is someone controlling my opinions? 

Okay, let’s put that aside for a moment. I write something then keep coming back to my post to see if people like it.  The comments are not quite as important. Do they like my post/article? Who are “they?” Why does it concern me? It can get habitual. 

How it Continued

But wait, there’s more! My written words needed to be supplemented by videos. That seemed to be the natural progression, correct? Surely, people wanted to hear what I had to say not just read what I put to paper. And it becomes addicting. What did I do wrong? Why have only a few hundred people watched my recent video when the video before that, garnered 4,000 views? Something is not right here.

But in reality, what made me an expert on an entire array of subjects? I am no Tony Robbins. (Hell, I’m no Tony Orlando, so save your yellow ribbon.) I think my ego was getting the better of me, which is never a good position to put yourself in. Of course, some would say that Pride Goeth before a Fall (“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”), but they would be wrong in saying that. My history background and passion for reading and research makes it clear. And I should have let it go at that. But, of course, an ego is a terrible thing to waste.

So I find myself commenting on things that have about as much resemblance of a professional subject as General Custer had for a Head & Shoulders commercial. My comments were never unprofessional, disrespectful, or eyebrow raising. But the original purpose of a marvelous service that LinkedIn could bring began to be diverted. I have never been a huge proponent of social media. I don’t do FaceBook, or MySpace, or MyFace or SpaceBook.  LinkedIn was different. Or was it? In the end, is it not all the same? I ask this as a question. I am not making a declaration.

It became the wonderful proverbial cocktail hour with family that morphed into keeping the gin bottle in the desk drawer at work, to carrying a flask around everywhere, just in case. (Please understand I am speaking metaphorically.) In an honest assessment that I have always given myself—even as a teen, during those “tough” years—I realized I did not like the way things were going. 

I have always been a proponent that if one wisdom tooth needed to be yanked, why not get them all pulled at the same time? Nip it in the bud while you are dealing with it, albeit at a lesser intensity. So, that’s what I did. Rather than merely change what needed to be changed because I knew darn well, it needed to, I did it “cold turkey.” I closed my account. My privacy and my professionalism mean too much to me. I made an honest assessment that perhaps you need not take to that level.

All Social Media is Great, If …

I think LinkedIn is great. I don’t badger it or any other social media. I just came to the realization, for a variety of reasons that it’s not for me. Regarding this specific subject, the advice I would give law enforcement professionals is to review your social media departmental orders very carefully. Can you make comments, neutral preferably, without being baited into a “fight” or debate that will strip away some of your professionalism? Is there something you are good at? For me, it was historical postings with a tie in to the present and leadership. But by the same token, are you drifting away from your “core function?” Has your tether come loose?

If these questions resonated with you, then it may be necessary to take a break (temporary or permanent) from social media. In a few weeks you will realize that it’s very advantageous to be master over your own life and not responding to something and everything day in and night out. Worry about what’s important. Being popular (or worse, thinking you’re popular) isn’t everything.

Be your own person, especially in law enforcement. Don’t find yourself wrapped up in a box with a pretty bow from which you can find no escape. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s because it’s not. And the best way to “stop” something is to step on the brakes right there and then. Let nothing consume you except your love for family, your love of country, and your love for God.

I would boldly add that no one ever gets overweight overnight. It starts one pound at a time until before long, you find your 20 lbs. heavier than you want to be. In three months, that number will double. If you choose to put off that which you know will help you, then you have no one to blame but the person that stares back at you through the mirror.

Apply this to anything and everything that gives you reason to pause and ask, “What does this mean and why?” If you do that, you will never go wrong. Sometimes, a reboot is all you need.

A Final Thought

I (b)linked out. I thought it the right thing to do for me. It would not have been wrong if I chose not to. You, yourself, are the only person to make that honest assessment. What works for you may not work for me and vice-versa. I bring this up for one reason only: You must always be the one behind the wheel driving to the destination you choose to visit. I (B)linked out because the “car” was in need for a front-end alignment.

Make things, all things work for you. If you’re not good where you are at a given moment, position yourself into a place where you get back on track. It can be a truly liberating experience whether you’re 16 or 60. It fits anything and everything. Prepare your own checklist, then go down the list and see what is not checked off.

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David Magnusson

David Magnusson

Magnusson is retired as the chief of Havelock (N.C.) Police Department. He spent 30 years with the Miami Police Department, retiring there as a major. He is a graduate of American Military University with a Master's in Military history. Chief Magnusson also boxed as an amateur for twenty-six years.
David Magnusson

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