LinkedIn users have sparked controversy in recent years by turning the business networking platform into a quasi-dating app. According to a new study conducted by DatingNews, 52% of people interviewed said they had organized a date through a networking website like LinkedIn.

This trend is particularly concerning for female users. Research published in 2023 revealed that out of 1,000 female LinkedIn accounts, a staggering 91% reported receiving romantic and inappropriate messages at least once. The study highlighted that most of these "out-of-line messages" were propositions for romantic or sexual encounters.

The Professional Purpose of LinkedIn

LinkedIn was launched with the primary goal of encouraging professional networking, career development, and community building. However, the increasing number of women receiving inappropriate advances has led to criticism.

Many argue that such behaviour undermines the platform's purpose and negatively impacts the professional experiences of women in business.

Social Impact and Professional Detriment

LinkedIn users have expressed concerns that these inappropriate messages are problematic and detrimental to the role of women in business. When accounts assume that female users are interested in romantic or sexual relationships instead of professional ones, it not only disrespects their professional aspirations but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

Positive Psychology and Business Coach Elle Mace elaborates on this issue: "A woman who receives unsolicited romantic messages on LinkedIn may start to question her professional achievements and whether she's being taken seriously in her field.

This intrusion of personal interest into a professional space can reinforce existing gender inequalities by diverting attention away from women's professional capabilities and towards their appearance or perceived romantic availability."

LinkedIn's Policy on Unwanted Advances

LinkedIn messages
Examples of the inappropriate messages sent to a female LinkedIn user. Aimee Monaghan-Richardson via LinkedIn

LinkedIn's policy is clear: "We don't allow unwanted expressions of attraction, desire, requests for romantic relationships, marriage proposals, sexual advances or innuendo, or lewd remarks. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, not a dating site.

The policy further states, "Do not use LinkedIn to pursue romantic connections, ask for romantic dates, or provide sexual commentary on someone's appearance or perceived attractiveness. Do not send unwanted advances in messages, posts, or comments or send sexually explicit images to anyone on the platform."

Voices Against Inappropriate Behavior

In a post on LinkedIn, Marketing Apprentice Aimee Monaghan-Richardson voiced her frustration with the number of unwanted and inappropriate messages she and other women receive on the platform. "LinkedIn is not a dating app," Monaghan-Richardson wrote.

"We are professionals. We want to be treated like it, seriously that is. Wanting to expand our knowledge and build our personal brand does not invite anyone to act in such a way."

She included a screenshot of problematic messages she received and noted, "I'll humour it for now, but I can see this is a massive issue on LinkedIn right now."

Navigating the Grey Area

While some argue that a proportion of romantic or sexual advances on LinkedIn might feel mutual, akin to real-life workplace romances, the current normalization of the "hookup" culture on the platform remains controversial. Patriarchal norms muddy the dynamics of these interactions and often disrupt the professional environment LinkedIn strives to maintain.

As LinkedIn grows as a professional networking site, users must respect its intended purpose. Inappropriate messages violate LinkedIn's policies and hinder the professional development and experiences of many users, particularly women.