Commentary: When did LinkedIn become a dating site? Two rules to navigate this new challenge
Making a match might be difficult in tiny Singapore, but please keep the pick-up lines and date invites out of work-related interactions, says Karen Tee.
SINGAPORE: If you have been on social media earlier this year, you might have seen a curious meme going viral.
For the “LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder” challenge, users have to compile four profile images of themselves corresponding to what they would post on these respective social media platforms.
While Facebook and Instagram profiles can sometimes look similar, there is a striking distinction between the kind of pictures people would use on business networking platform LinkedIn and dating app Tinder - and rightly so.
Obviously, LinkedIn images tend towards compelling, professional headshots, while Tinder photos often try to project a more fun-loving image that display one’s personal interests and can even sometimes be more suggestive.
It is clear people innately understand the difference in the purposes of each platform. But that clinical separation of these platforms does not always work out so cleanly in real life.
CONFUSING INTERACTIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
For instance, there was a recent case in Singapore when a man met his Tinder date in person only to find out that she was just trying to sell him insurance. Unsurprisingly, it ended in disappointment on both sides.
On the other hand, people are turning to LinkedIn to scout for potential partners and using its messaging service to chat up others.
The Tinder insurance encounter is undoubtedly annoying but what is arguably more uncomfortable is when the opposite happens and a LinkedIn contact turns out to be a Casanova trying to score a date.
LinkedIn is the main business networking platform that most people gravitate to. With 1 million users in Singapore - and over 500 million worldwide - it has become a powerful and economic way for people to make useful business contacts and collaborate on new ideas.
LinkedIn’s built-in discoverability and connectivity functions serve up a list of ambitious, successful candidates who might be seeking fresh opportunities. But what was meant to be a professional human resource tool for companies have morphed into a personal human resource tool for some individuals.
The trouble arises because although there are well-defined guidelines about appropriate conduct at the workplace, with social media, the boundaries between work and play are more blurred. Platforms can be used in unintended, new ways that do not gel with their original purpose.
Perhaps the more relaxed terms of online interaction makes it easier for some to inadvertently slip into casual behaviour they may think twice about in an office. Is it ever appropriate to establish a romantic connection via LinkedIn? And how do you respond to someone asking you out?
RULE #1: SET YOUR OWN BOUNDARIES
Navigating the tricky grey area of LinkedIn come-ons can be challenging precisely because it shouldn’t be.
In general, most people would not walk up to a random co-worker and complement their appearance or ask them out for coffee with no additional context. You would think the same general rules apply on LinkedIn.
Yet, I have heard from friends how they have received unsolicited comments about their appearance. I have also previously received private LinkedIn messages asking me out for coffee even though I can barely identify what work-related commonalities we might have just by scanning the other person’s profile.
On Facebook or Instagram, when I receive unwanted DMs (direct messages), I delete them and move on without replying.
But on LinkedIn, when such personal comments creep in when one is expecting a work-related discussion, it can feel particularly jarring. This makes it difficult to ignore - or to excise from one’s memory. It can sometimes make one wonder, are you being valued for your carefully compiled resume and proven track record or your looks and baby-making worthiness?
At the same time, it does not make sense to turn down all requests for meet-ups just because there are the occasional irritating pests who try to hound an uninterested person into going on a date.
After all, having more professional contacts can come in useful for one’s career. It is nice to have a career buddy in our otherwise increasingly solitary professional journeys. Like-minded individuals who have strong professional chemistry do go on to forge partnerships that add value to their career goals, without ever wanting to date each other.
So, just like in real life, I’ve set some personal boundaries to help figure out whether or not it is worth my time to meet a LinkedIn contact.
I typically agree to a face-to-face meeting only after we’ve had fairly productive digital correspondences. Some coffee “dates” have resulted in mutually beneficial working relationships over the years.
On a couple of occasions, these contacts have become friends I see at both work-related events and social settings. Friendships can grow out of meaningful career contacts.
Sometimes I politely decline an offer to meet when I find there is little potential in furthering our conversations in person. There are no hard feelings - it’s just business after all.
And that one time when a complete stranger asked me out for no apparent reason, I ultimately decided to treat it like an unwanted Instagram DM - I simply did not respond at all.
RULE #2: FIND YOUR DATE ON A DATING APP INSTEAD
For everyone trying to increase their chances at finding love, why not focus on actual dating apps to help you find a match?
Single Singaporeans really like using dating apps to find romance, the one bright spark that might just boost our declining birth rates.
A 2019 survey by dating company Lunch Actually found that 51 per cent of 600 Singaporean singles surveyed prefer to use dating apps to search for a partner. Popular matchmaking apps like Coffee Meets Bagel and Paktor say Singapore ranks among their top markets.
Paktor has about 850,000 users on its app in Singapore and recorded a 36 per cent jump in the number of matches from 2018 to 2019. On Coffee Meets Bagel, 1.6 million introductions were made in Singapore in 2017.
More Singapore couples are openly admitting they first met on such dating apps. The success probably stems from a national culture of practicality and efficiency. There are few better ways to put oneself out there to a large pool of potential dates, who share the same personal objective of finding someone special.
But rare is the couple who met on LinkedIn and did more with that enduring spark. The lesson learnt? Better to hunt for a potential date in a space where the terms of engagement are clear and there is little chance of misunderstandings arising.
And if you just can’t shake the thought of prowling LinkedIn to find someone who checks all your right boxes, such as educational background and occupation, your prayers are answered.
There is, in fact, a new dating app called The League that draws on LinkedIn to verify its users. Just imagine getting fuss-free access to a group of single, eligible and qualified individuals who are ready to meet their match.
Now, go forth and mingle. Just stay off LinkedIn please.
Karen Tee is a freelance writer.