LinkedIn: New media, social media, or computer-mediated communication (CMC)?

When we are researching LinkedIn, are we researching new media, social media, computer-mediated communication? Researchers are actively deciding which term to use to because the term that you use says something about how you understand these interactions and what makes them worthy of study.

So to begin, while there are important ways that these conversations feel new, but to call this “new media” would suggest that it is by definition NEW, which obviously is not the case when you look at LinkedIn for five minutes and realize how it borrows from genres like resumes. Thus, newness cannot entirely be the case.

To call this computer-mediated-communication calls attention to the communication and the ways that it is mediated by the instrumentalities (which we all know to not be limited to computers nowadays) and seems to give undue weight to them and not the people who use this language to DO things in the real world. For me, what is interesting about LinkedIn is how people USE it to DO things like meet people, make meaningful connections, develop ideas, get jobs, discover their passions. I am a linguist, so I am in a position to comment on the role that language plays in accomplishing these ends, but as I am a SOCIO linguist, I am particularly interested in the social implications of doing things on the site like “inviting,” “welcoming,” “linking,” “recommending,” “endorsing” and joining groups, posting questions, and participating in discussions.

Thus, we are left with the term “social media” which feels right when you come to understand how what is expected on LinkedIn seems to be like that which has come to be expected on Facecebook (West and Trester 2013), the norm for being a good user on LinkedIn is that of “joining the conversation.”

Perhaps it is precisely the convergences, the ways that all of these ways of interacting come together, that make LinkedIn what it is, and that equipped with this knowledge, you can use LinkedIn strategically, to its fullest potential, or in other words, like a linguist!

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