Founded in 2002, most of us know LinkedIn as a career-centric social media platform. On it, professionals create profiles listing their work history and use it to connect with others within their industry, learn new skills and scout for jobs. But that could be changing.
Gen Z users have been sharing their latest life hack: to use the world’s largest professional network as an alternative dating app. Yes, really.
“Number one, I can filter for an education — MBA baby. Number two, I can filter by industry, I’m looking at doctor, lawyer, finance bro. Number three I can filter by country, very important,” says Candice Gallagher in a viral TikTok with over one million views about why she’s begun using LinkedIn as a dating app.
“A friend had privately shared the LinkedIn profile of one of their connections and had asked if I would like to be set up on a blind date with him. This is what sparked the idea about using LinkedIn in the context of dating,” she explains about where she got the idea. “Many people, like myself, have experienced the highs and the lows of modern dating apps and there’s clearly an appetite for alternative methods,” she continues.
Gallagher isn’t alone. All over TikTok, users have been sharing their experiences of using LinkedIn to hunt for dates. Take Josie Karlovic, 21, who realised that if she wanted to find a man “that actually fit the criteria I wanted”, she would have to look “in a place that was more sophisticated”. Enter LinkedIn. “When you allow yourself the chance to pick someone in a niche that you like or would relate to, it makes the first steps of dating easier,” she explains.
“Don’t underestimate your potential — CEOs need girlfriends too,” she says. However, she also stresses that it is not ok to ask for personal info on private messages, but rather one should build a professional rapport and see if you can meet instead — after all, it is a networking site.
Boundaries expert and life coach Michelle Elman pins the reason for a sudden uptick in LinkedIn meet-cutes down to society’s tendency to “swing between extremes”. “Dating apps provide the benefit of knowing it is definitely a romantic connection, so this could be an indication that we are swinging the other way and want the room to be able to meet without a narrow intention,” she continues.
There’s also the fact that the modern dating landscape is hell. It’s almost unanimously agreed that dating apps have made it harder to build authentic connections, which is why some might be circumnavigating the system to meet the one. “Dating app fatigue is real. We have all heard horror stories about toxic serial daters, people only looking for hookups, and the disappointment of striking out over and over again,” says 25-year-old Taylor Gensler. “If you want to have a curated dating pool, just like an app, you can filter people based on different specs on a website like LinkedIn. The advantage here is being able to refine your search based on location, degrees/certifications, job titles, and ultimately figuring out someone’s financial status and salary. Once you have already swiped through all of your dating apps – I can see how LinkedIn would be the next best thing.”
Considering LinkedIn prides itself on being the homeplace for professionals to network — not date, viewing the app as a place to find love sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or at the very least, something that will get you blacklisted from the company where the person you’re trying to woo works. The line between cute and creepy is delicate territory, however, Gallager is well aware of this. “Ultimately, I fully adhere to LinkedIn’s user agreements and haven’t stepped outside of those bounds.” The main thing to note is that it’s not ok to immediately start flirting — start by networking as you would usually, and if a mutual spark develops over time then allow it to grow slowly and, most importantly, with consent.
Elman also advises caution. “If you intend to work at the same company, romantic relationships with colleagues can be complicated, especially if you start dating prior to your application,” she says, warning would-be LinkedIn daters to avoid potential office romances that could arise.
However, even with all of these considerations in place, not everyone is happy about the shift. For example, Gensler was recently asked out on LinkedIn, and it did not go well. “I have experienced some unique means of being asked out in the past, but this just felt very bizarre and inappropriate as I had never heard of someone using LinkedIn for dating. Naturally, I started questioning if my profile picture was suggestive (it was my college graduation photo from three years prior, nothing inappropriate there),” she says. “I did not know if this person saw me on TikTok or Instagram and then found my LinkedIn to then contact me, or if I somehow showed up on their suggested connections and they felt compelled to message me based on my profile. Regardless, I was very taken aback and confused, as I wanted to ensure my LinkedIn did not showcase myself in a suggestive light or unprofessional way.”
She also lists all the other bizarre means of outreach she’s experienced post-pandemic. From playing Words with Friends where users would start chatting with her and asking for her number based on her outdated Facebook profile, to receiving an In-Flight Entertainment aeroplane seat message asking for her number. “It seems like people don’t want to meet in person anymore. I have even received small payments on Venmo asking to take me out.”
The popularisation of dating apps and the shift to digital social interactions post-Covid have impacted our ability to foster genuine connections, and as a result, it seems like nowhere is sacred. Fundamentally LinkedIn is described as a “professional networking app”, and last time I checked, the rule was to never mix business with pleasure.
I asked around my friendship group to see if anyone would consider using LinkedIn as a dating app, and I got some pretty weird looks. Whether this is a chronically online fad, or the beginning of a new dating trend that’s about to take the world by storm, remains to be seen. But whatever you do, please don’t start a LinkedIn direct message with “You up?”