Fear of posting leaves content dancing in the dark

Many people have a fear of posting online - Newsreel
Hiding behind the screen ... many people have a fear of posting online. | Photo: bfk97 (iStock)

By Joe McKay

For better or worse, LinkedIn is part of Australian life.

Around 70 percent of the adult population (over 14m Aussies) have a LinkedIn account. Global LinkedIn membership ticked over 1 billion in December, with 260 million active users every month.

But recent data suggests only about one percent of those share posts, or “create content”.

The other 99 percent? They lurk in the shadows, doling out reactions, comments and reposts without ever getting on the dance floor. Why?

I put this down to a phenomenon called “FOPO” – Fear of People’s Opinions.

Fear Of People’s Opinions was a term coined by psychologist Michael Gervais.

Gervais first started referring publicly to FOPO in a 2019 Harvard Business Review article called “How to stop worrying about what other people think of you.”

As a LinkedIn ghostwriter, I’ve spent more time inside the blue box of Linkedin over the last two years than I care to calculate. I’ve published hundreds of LinkedIn posts for C-suite executives, founders of 9-figure brands and board members.

I’ve written about redundancies, feminism, fraud, greenwashing, lost loved ones, life lessons from making lunch, and more. And I’ve noticed: The FOPO is real.

However, I prefer to use a much more LinkedIn-specific moniker: Fear Of Posting Online.

FOPO is a common affliction, seemingly affecting those 99 percent of LinkedIn users (and many of my clients, at first).

Albert, a Sydney-based strategy consultant, confesses his dirty little secret on a public LinkedIn recommendation: “I struggled with my fear of posting online (FOPO!). I knew I should do more on LinkedIn, but couldn’t get started.”

Jonathan*, the GM of a major tourism organisation, expressed how stuck he felt: “The trigger was this podcast I took part in. I’ve been trying to post it to LinkedIn but have a mental block on what I want to say, and why. It’s not the first time.”

Over the years I’ve met dozens of business leaders wrestling with what’s “acceptable” to post on LinkedIn. Many of them want to share some of their story, but FOPO holds them back.

We love an underdog in Australia, the home of tall poppy syndrome. The flipside of this coin is we don’t appreciate the successful, skilled, more deserving “overdog” (not actually a word, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use on LinkedIn).

It seems we’d prefer to stay silent in public (or on social media) about our professional achievements. Or, if absolutely compelled to share an update, to do so with a tinge of the “humblebrag”. We don’t want to risk sounding boastful or arrogant or getting “too big for our boots”, lest we become “cringe” – a social media fate worse than death.

Sonja*, Co-Founder at a B2B SaaS company servicing the ecommerce industry, explains: “I guess giving myself, our company and our achievements exposure on Linkedin is possibly needful, but…still sometimes feels a bit “cringe”…If that makes sense.”

Lisa* is an experienced C-level executive who’s held roles in organisations from gaming, to employee wellbeing, to financial services.

She sheepishly admitted on our first call in January 2023: “No one knows I’m talking to you.”

This collective FOPO makes for the sometimes bland, pedestrian, deflating content on LinkedIn.

Despite the FOPO, I see more business leaders than ever taking a strong interest in building their personal brand. LinkedIn is the go-to destination for many.

The reality is, professional opportunities abound on the platform. It’s a highly educated, high-income audience of business decision-makers. And only one percent of members are out there dancing. These factors combine to create underpriced attention, and plenty of it available for those willing to stand out.

And you, dear reader? Want to get involved in LinkedIn but FOPO’s got you down? I’ll give you the same advice I give to all my clients:

Let go of what others might think. That’s your ego talking. No one else cares as much as you do. Just POST!

And update that profile picture from 2014.

Joe McKay is a LinkedIn ghostwriter helping executives, consultants and founders create thought leadership content and show up on LinkedIn without the cringe.

* Not real name.