by Jim Harris

There are many popular online social media groups today — sites like MySpace, for bands and musicians; Facebook, for people who like posting pictures of themselves drinking beer, and Linkedin, which bills itself as “The World’s Largest Professional Network.”

The Linkedin advertising says you can “Manage your professional identity, build your connections and access opportunities.” It all sounds very impressive, but there’s just one problem: not all the members are real professionals!

That’s right, little by little for several years now, drifters, vagabonds and hoboes masquerading as professionals have been infiltrating the ranks. I first became aware of this situation when I received requests to “connect on Linkedin” from several folks who I personally knew to be, uh, how can I put this nicely — bums. Old acquaintances from my days as a “ramblin’ man.”

Of course, I mended my ways years ago, but these people were obviously still out there loafing and mooching, judging by the dubious distinctions listed on their profiles. For instance, one woman I know billed herself as a “practical nurse,” by which she meant that she was practically a nurse, if you count attending a free “sexual healing” seminar as valid training (if you know what I mean).

So I launched an exhaustive investigation (excuse me; I have to sit down; I am breathing hard), and here are just a few so-called “qualifications” that some of these frauds have posted on their home pages:

• My last job was taking up collections at the Vatican City Cheesecake Factory.

• I could not get into astronaut school, but I did get a job as a maitre d’ on a spaceship.

• I was in charge of security at upscale boutiques in Hollywood. My main job was to make sure that Lindsay Lohan did not shoplift too much there.

• Children: none that I know of, but I knew some when I was young.

• I was in charge of tourism for three months in Afghanistan. In all that time I got one phone call from a honeymooning couple from Philadelphia. They could not decide whether to honeymoon in Paris, London or Kabul.

• I have a book coming out in the fall entitled “I Lied About Having a Book Coming Out in the Fall.”

• I was in charge of snow removal in northern China. When there was more than eight inches of snow, it was my idea to use snow plows to run over dissidents.

• I am recognized by the American Society of Surgeons (ASS). I’m not actually a member, but they recognize me when they see me.

• I am licensed to read head bumps.

• I believe in helping the poor. (I don’t actually DO it, but I do BELIEVE in it.)

These charlatans also use buzzwords like “freelancer” (= freeloader) or “independent” (= unemployed) that can tip you off. Linkedin does attempt to screen out the non-professionals by asking a series of probing questions before allowing a newcomer to “connect” with a member. Sometimes the answers can be revealing:

• How do you know Professor Jones? Colleague? “Yes; we played ping pong in the same college league.” Classmate? “Yes. We took an advanced pizza-tasting class together at the Learning Tree. And we both have a crippling Chardonnay addiction.”

• Done business together? “Perhaps. I think I sold him some weed back in ‘82.”

• Other? “I slept with his sister — just once. OK, maybe twice, but honestly, I did not enjoy it.”

So why are all these imposters so intent on joining Linkedin? Is it just for the thrill of pretending to be something they’re not? Maybe they just like being able to say that they have “colleagues?” (“Yeah, man, just chilln’ with my colleagues.”) Whatever the reason, these insidious gate-crashers must be stopped.

I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Jim Harris just a big phony himself? What’s HE doing on Linkedin? Where does he get off criticizing others for trying to pretend they’re professionals?” OK, fair question. People have got to know whether or not their columnist is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got. And remember, it takes a big man with a giant head to admit he has used steroids.

True, I haven’t held a real job since, well, ever, but that’s because I have “Tedium Nauseum.” Work makes me sick — literally. It’s a real disease; look it up (on my website). Anyway, I live by my wits. In fact, I’m full of wit, and if that doesn’t make me a professional, I don’t know what does.