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    I can’t help but see parallels to the infamous “give up avocado toast so you can afford a mortgage” article. Once you’re writing articles for the NYT and receiving more opportunities than you can handle, you can afford to pretend you didn’t have to hustle in order to get there.

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      I, too, raised an eyebrow at the “more opportunities than I can handle” line. I don’t know anyone like that, in real life, even among those of my friends who are much better and more experienced (and better paid) engineers than I am—they still had to work for every opportunity!

      Actually, what surprised me about this article was this: I expected to read about how having a social media presence exposes you to… certain unfortunate consequences of inadvertently saying the “wrong” thing on social media. But that was nowhere in sight (in retrospect, perhaps not entirely unexpected, given the venue).

      On the other hand, it’s not like I disagree with the guy’s conclusion, about staying off social media.

      So here’s an actual question, to which I actually don’t know the answer: from the standpoint of getting work, finding opportunities, etc., does having a social media presence help? If so, how much? Does this vary by profession? By type of job? (I’d love to hear real-world experience, here, not just speculation; of course if anyone has any good data on this—is there such?—that’d be great to see too.)

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        Does having a social media presence help

        It does. I got my job at Amazon via LinkedIn, and many of my friends at Microsoft made their initial contact with the company via LinkedIn as well.

        In information security, having a presence on Twitter is de rigeur, because so many conversations go on there. Again, I’ve heard about people getting interviews because they seemed smart and knowledgeable and talked about vulnerabilities without being completely stupid.

        In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

        He’s right, but incomplete. The market rewards things that are rare, valuable, and legible. Having a social media presence isn’t about signalling rareness or value. It’s about making yourself legible to the modern capitalist machine.

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          This is a valuable insight, thanks.

          What I would love to see, in an ideal world, is for someone to do some sort of survey or study about which fields and subfields assign greater/lesser importance to this sort of thing (with commentary on the subject from a selection of insiders from each field). That seems like it would be an incredibly valuable resource, in terms of career planning and advancement.

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          So I do maintain a small social media presence, mostly because I figure it’s one more slot when you Google my name that’s under my control. (Though Google can be finnicky about what to index sometimes, and it makes me wonder if they’re deliberately going after my most controversial moments or something.) And in terms of networking it’s pretty much been a wash. It’s quite possible of course I’ve been doing it wrong, but I could easily see the whole concept being one of those silly marketing hype things.

          One thing that occurs to me is it’s sort of a trap, because when you’re on a social media site you post things which you think will appeal somehow to the egregore of the sites collective hivemind, and that means you don’t quite control it. For example if you were to read my Twitter you’d probably mostly just get the impression I’m pretty outraged about Donald Trump’s presidency. This seems distinctly meh in terms of personal messaging.

          I, too, raised an eyebrow at the “more opportunities than I can handle” line.

          This struck me as actually plausible? I think it might depend on the industry and perhaps separate magisteria of opportunity. Scott Alexander for example is so flooded with mail that he basically has to tell people to stop sending him things. I’m sure in that deluge there are plenty of really interesting offers for this or that. There aren’t that many Scott Alexanders in the world, but I could easily see a scenario where you’re at least that famous and now the emails just won’t stop coming which you interpret as having plenty of fish in the sea.

          At the same time, the average email opportunity Scott Alexander gets probably won’t advance his career in the same way that impressing his residency hospital might.

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            At the same time, the average email opportunity Scott Alexander gets probably won’t advance his career in the same way that impressing his residency hospital might.

            Yes, exactly this, and also: the article author was aiming his advice at the general readership! Surely most of them aren’t any kind of Scott Alexander. Like I said: I know literally no one IRL (unless you count the actual Scott Alexander, whom I’ve met a whole once) who has this problem of “more opportunities than I can handle”, despite knowing a good number of really quite talented and professionally accomplished people.

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