LinkedIn, If Only You Could Facilitate that Reconnection

LinkedIn graciously provides reminders of those people with whom you may want to reconnect.

I was caught off guard recently when the face that popped up as a suggestion was my friend Bruce Kramer. He would have gotten a chuckle out of the idea that LinkedIn wanted me to reach out to him, since we lost him to a very public battle with ALS last spring. Bruce chronicled his life with ALS in the memoir We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying, written with Cathy Wurzer (note that in a Google search for the book, all it took was “We Know” to make it the top suggestion.)

I recounted the story to my wife, who got a little misty when she recalled similar reminders from LinkedIn about her former boss, Paul Schmidt, who died a couple of years ago. Again, someone who would have seen the lighter side of irony in this automated suggestion.

I have been thinking about this corner of our digital footprint since then. Certainly there are profiles for many others that are no longer living.  For some of those with whom they were linked, the appearance of a suggested connection may not be received with a wry smile, but could create unnecessary angst.

What’s the right thing to do in these situations?  LinkedIn allows people to remove folks by gathering:
1.    The member's name
2.    The URL to their LinkedIn profile
3.    Your relationship to them
4.    Member's email address
5.    Date they passed away
6.    Link to obituary
7.    Company where they most recently worked

But who decides whether the person submitting the information has the right or authority to decide?  What if one of my children wants the profile to stay and one doesn’t. (Or in my case, there would be two more that don’t care.)

People can barely get a handle on stewardship of their own presence in the ether, much less managing the reputation and visibility of those who are gone. This will become further complicated if someone manages to find a way to protect individual rights over their web presence, as I saw suggested recently.

Now that firms have generated corporate Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, who will assure the removal of those pages after a firm fails?  Not sure how LinkedIn’s checklist translates to a defunct corporation.

Meanwhile, for me, having Bruce pop up every so often brightens my day a little.  So let him stay LinkedIn.

Dr. Michael C. Porter, APR is director of the Master of Business Communication and the MS in Health Care Communication in the Opus College of Business.