My first Yale-Harvard football game experience was lovely, thanks to my hostess at Harvard. Five of us Yalies squeezed into her apartment living room, and I slept half-curled-up on a sofa chair. Because of her, two of my close friends and I were able to stay together for the Game instead of being separated. She also brought us to Shabbat dinner and various other Jewish social events at Harvard Chabad and Harvard Hillel.
My hostess and I had ample time to gossip, trade secrets and laugh together over the weekend. Her sense of humility and kindness astounded me, and I felt immediately comfortable in her presence. My friends and I were fortunate to have been paired with her through the Slifka Center’s matching system.
Yet I had no way of knowing I’d enjoy myself before arriving at Harvard. In fact, I had predicted the opposite. Why? Thanks to LinkedIn.
When all I had was my hostess’s name, sent to me by email before the Game, I did a quick internet search to see what she looked like. Soon enough, I found myself on LinkedIn, staring at her online resume, daunted by how impressive she was. At that point, all I saw was her ambition, which I found quite intimidating. I had no way of knowing that I’d soon be surprised to meet someone down-to-earth and positive in real life.
Maybe the issue here is that I’m insecure. As a Yale student, I should learn to cope with other people’s accomplishments. But, in real life, I do. I’ve made a habit of being the first to applaud and compliment my dear friends for the achievements earned by their hard work.
The difference between real life and LinkedIn is that the former humanizes us, and the latter reduces us to our accomplishments. As people, we are able to see each other on the whole, for all of our flaws, uniquenesses and, yes, our ambitions. What we’re not meant to do is greet each other with our resumes. Imagine if we did do that:
“Hey there, my name is X. I was the valedictorian of my class and cured cancer in eighth grade.”
“Pleasure to meet you, X [not really]. My name is Y. I was the valedictorian of my entire school district and cured AIDS in sixth grade.”
I imagine that, if Hell exists, one of its circles looks like that conversation. And, following that line of reasoning, Hell does exist! It exists on LinkedIn!
Recently, on the train ride home from Yale for winter break, I was having a great time updating my LinkedIn account, plumping it up for employers — and maybe, subconsciously, for my peers? — to see. That is, until I looked at the screen again and suddenly felt as empty as ever. A wave of regret came over me. I deleted my progress and put my phone away.
It’s hard to tell what to do with this information. Presently, I don’t have it in me to delete LinkedIn; it’s actually been helpful for picking up gigs. If you decide to rid yourself of the app completely, I commend you for your strong will. But for those of us who are more moderate in our choices, even the choices that may deserve radical action, let’s at least stop looking up people we know. Because a person’s resume is no way to really know them, using it as a starting point for judgment can only hurt our egos and relationships alike. I’d recommend having coffee with new people instead — or staying at their place for the Game.
SAHAR TARTAK is a first year in Pierson College. Contact her at email@example.com.