Professional social network sites such as LinkedIn and Xing have gained widespread adoption, with LinkedIn alone boasting over 930 million users worldwide. Whilst these sites offer a range of benefits for users, such as career advancement opportunities, professional connections, and industry‐related knowledge and resources, more recent studies are beginning to suggest a dark side.
Birds-eye view of a table of people working on screens

New research led by the University of Edinburgh Business School has focused onto the intersection between professional social networks usage – such as LinkedIn – and imposter syndrome.

The research is the first to show using LinkedIn induces imposter syndrom. It found that when users both browse the platform and post about their personal achievements (therefore heightening their professional self-focused attention), they relay feeling a sense of imposter syndrome that includes thoughts of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the paper finds that imposter thoughts drive intentions to enact direct resolution behaviour, such as signing up for paid courses designed to increase competency skills across the platform.

"Simply engaging with LinkedIn, reading your feed or posting an achievement yourself, can make you feel like imposter", says Ben Marder, Senior Lecturer in Marketing. "This is because it triggers a reflection on your professional identity that can ignite imposter thoughts, which is associated with a fear of being found out as an imposter."

These findings should alert managers to the fact their employees may be feeling the effects of imposter thoughts and negative emotions. As such, managers should feel encouraged to communicate to their teams that these feelings are not uncommon - research shows that knowing that others share similar experiences can reduce negative emotions. Implications for social media sites should be that they clearly promote training courses to their users to help upskill them across competencies to help counter the effects of imposter syndrome.

Read the full paper

Ben Marder

Ben Marder

Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Director of PGR Programmes