The professional networking platform showcases everything gone wrong with the attention economy

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A little over a year ago, as the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic began to sink in, people began losing their jobs. The losses were swift and historic, with a quarter of adults in the U.S. reporting they or someone in their household had been laid off by October 2020.

And while the hardest hit were those in the service industry — cooks, waiters, bartenders, cleaners, and hotel staff, to name a few — large numbers of “knowledge workers” also found themselves unemployed. College seniors, many of whom had hoped to begin careers in entry-level roles in fields like marketing…


Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Some people dread deadlines. Me? I thrive on them. Call it a hefty dose of anxiety and a morbid fascination with the inexorable march of time, but nothing gets me jazzed like a fast-approaching deadline.

And believe me when I tell you, I’ve got a big one coming up!

A little over a decade ago, I sat myself down and wrote out exactly where I wanted to be in ten years’ time. It was a tough exercise, but as I sternly reminded myself at the time, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

Now, here we are — 2020 is drawing to…


Person standing on top of a building in the city
Person standing on top of a building in the city
Image via Pexels

How to Scale a Small Business

As a budding entrepreneur, you probably feel ready to take on the world — to scale a business that goes on to become wildly overvalued while exploiting loopholes in our nation’s labor laws.

But trust me, there will be plenty of time for all that later. For now, you’ll be better served by setting your sights on scaling a small business (one or two stories) with a lot of untapped potential.

When it comes to scaling your small business, your structure is everything. Ideally, you’re looking for an older building in a historic business district, something with a name like…


You’ll fly higher without it.

Genius Surrounded by a Banderole Showing the Alphabet, 1542. Sebald Beham. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the machines on the spaceship Heart of Gold are programmed with Genuine People Personalities. These personalities run the gamut from the deeply depressed—Marvin the Paranoid Android—to the manically chipper—the ship’s central computer.

Neither are particularly pleasant to be around, but it’s the boundless need to help that makes the ship’s computer so agonizing to interact with.

“Hi there!” it said brightly and simultaeneously spewed out a tiny ribbon of ticker tape just for the record. The ticker tape said, Hi There!

“Oh God,” said Zaphod. He hadn’t worked with this computer for long…


The Forge of Vulcan, Johann Friedrich Greuter. Courtesy of the Met.

If Amy Webb is right, we should either be excited, alarmed, or terrified by the advance of artificial intelligence this century.

That uncertainty is built into the title of her latest book, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans & Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity. We could wind up warped, but Webb can’t predict the future — only model it.

The eponymous “Big Nine” with the power to deform humanity is divided into two groups: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Apple in the U.S. — and Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent in China. (Webb cheekily dubs them the G-MAFIA…


The Reader, by Eglon van der Neer
The Reader, by Eglon van der Neer
The Reader, Eglon van der Neer

Every morning, a parade of children go by my office window on their way to the elementary school up the street.

There’s one little girl I notice, in particular, because she’s always using one hand to cradle a gigantic iPhone against her chest. She holds it sideways, barely keeping it in her hand as she totters along, glancing up occasionally to make sure she’s still on the sidewalk. She can’t be older than seven.

And while giving a cell phone to a child that age may be an accepted practice right now, there’s also a growing backlash to it —…


Narcissus Looking In The Water by Jacques Callot, 1628

In Nicholas Carr’s most recent book, Utopia is Creepy: And Other Provocations, he includes one of his old blog posts from 2014, in which he compares Facebook, and all social media, really, to scrapbooking. We’re all pulling together scraps of our lives online, endlessly.

If you’re an online scrapbooker, as I am, then you’ve probably been on Facebook for a decade or so. If that’s the case, then you’ve almost certainly noticed that Facebook now provides you with a daily notification stating,

“You have memories to look back on today.”

If you decide to click on that notification, you’ll be…


The Smoke Signal by Frederic Remington

My parents finally ditched their landline in favor of cell phones, and now it’s impossible to get ahold of them.

They don’t keep their phones on them at all times. Or ever, really. My mom leaves hers in her purse when she comes home. My dad leaves his on the counter. Sometimes he goes to work without it.

Hell, he didn’t even have a cell phone until they dropped the landline. If he wasn’t at home or at work, there was no way to get ahold of him. He was untraceable. A ghost.

Call Me When You Get This

My parents have a different concept of…


Knight, Death, and the Devil. Engraving by Albrecht Dürer, 1513.

My dad is currently exhibiting several pieces of his artwork at his college’s faculty show.

They’re still hanging as I write this, but I went to see them at the opening a couple weeks ago. Seeing the artwork hanging against those stark white walls always gives me a little thrill.

Watching people wandering around the gallery, stopping in front of a piece, reading the small plaque to the side–it’s something I’ve seen over and over since childhood, but I still enjoy watching it.

I still enjoy doing it myself.

A Gallery Of My Own

It got me thinking about where I want my own work…


Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin (1855–1888) by Ilia Efimovich Repin

“Nothing is ever so difficult that study and application cannot conquer it.”

This has been one of my favorite quotes since I read it nearly a year ago. I was struggling to make a living while freelancing in Portland, and this was the perfect line for me to come across. Fridge-worthy, right?

I didn’t read it online, on one of those sites that compiles and sorts thousands of quotes for your morning shot of inspiration. I read it in the Discovery issue of Lapham’s Quarterly.

The author, Leon Battista Alberti, was a Renaissance painter whose father trained him in mathematics…

Matthew McFarlane

Reader, writer, content provider. Fan of hand-made guitars, racket-based sports, and houseplants. You can find me in St. Louie.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store