Tinder, Bumble...LinkedIn? Users Report Unwanted Advances On Networking Site
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Looking for love? Well, let's see. There's Tinder, Bumble, eHarmony, LinkedIn. One of these is not like the other. The community guidelines for the professional networking website prohibit romantic advances, but it turns out quite a few people have used it for just that. Reporter Ben Bergman wrote about it for the tech site dot.LA, and he joins us now.
BEN BERGMAN: Thanks. Good to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So LinkedIn as a love site - you write that women in particular have been receiving unwanted advances through LinkedIn. What kind of stories were they telling you?
BERGMAN: Well, you know, this is a pretty common thing for a lot of women - guys who say, hey, you're really beautiful. Do you want to have coffee? And that's sometimes the most innocuous things. It can be messages that are a lot more graphic than that sometimes.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why might it be a place where someone would look for a date?
BERGMAN: Well, there's too many dating apps to choose from, I think a lot of people would say. But there's still a bit of a stigma for at least some people - maybe people who are CEOs or a little bit more prominent in their field - who don't want to be seen on a dating app. So they are perhaps on LinkedIn and not on dating apps, and people will use it as a way to connect on there instead of overtly being on a dating app.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So obviously, in the age of #MeToo, which has really exposed how women have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances in the workplace - you know, this is a place that is meant to be a networking site. So what kind of action has LinkedIn taken?
BERGMAN: The company says it is taking action. It will follow up with users who have reported inappropriate messages, and it will also tell users who are blocked exactly why they were removed, which apparently it has not done up until now. It also says it's using AI to detect possible problematic messages. And so it will flag those messages and give you the opportunity to block them.
The company also says, though, that users need to do more. It says users should be keeping a tighter network. And if you don't know someone, if you don't think they should be in your network, then don't accept their friend request.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: On the other hand, you did speak to a dating coach from eHarmony who said it's not inappropriate to ask for a date on LinkedIn. What did she say?
BERGMAN: This was kind of surprising 'cause I actually talked to a number of dating coaches. And, yes, that is a real job, apparently. And they say that there's a sense of authenticity there. You actually know where someone worked and went to school, and the information there is much more real than other sites and that there's a lot of professionals - just like, you know, you may ask someone out at a professional networking event, you can do the same thing on LinkedIn. And they've met a lot of people, and some of them themselves have met their significant others on LinkedIn.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has this been an issue for LinkedIn users for a while, or is there something that has created an uptick?
BERGMAN: It's certainly nothing brand-new. It's gotten a little bit worse over the years. But during the pandemic, I've seen anecdotally a lot more of this happening because what happens now is a lot of women will receive these messages, and then they will post them on Twitter and say, LinkedIn is not a dating site. Look at what happened. But during the pandemic, there's not really ways to meet people in person, in the office or at bars or at parties, so it's all online. And so LinkedIn is one way to do that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ben Bergman is the senior reporter at dot.LA.
Thank you so much.
BERGMAN: Pleasure to do it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOKIN' FOR LOVE")
JOHNNY LEE: (Singing) I was looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces, searching their eyes, looking for traces of what I'm dreaming of. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.