social media predators, business expert, career advice

“Dear Social Media Predators, LinkedIn is not a dating site.”

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LinkedIn, which describes itself as “the world’s largest professional network,” has been acting more like RSVP, Tinder or Victoria Milan of late if my experiences, and those of my friends, are anything to go by.

With 300 million members in more than 200 countries around the globe, LinkedIn was officially launched in the US in May 2003 as a business networking tool. As the California-based website proudly proclaims: “Our mission is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” That’s all good and well, but why are social media predators abusing the system by repeatedly hitting on you, via LinkedIn?

Has this professional business platform turned into the ultimate dating site, with easy access for dodgy sleazeballs to harass businesswomen from all over the globe? Just last week, I received one super-creepy invite from a legitimate business connection (or so I thought) to “meet up for a drink ASAP to get to know each other better.” Given I’m happily married – my LinkedIn profile even states my marital status – I dismissed it as the folly of a middle-aged man and replied to him that any meetings with me would be strictly business and incur my hourly fee.

But then when I received my next unwanted and cringe-worthy solicitation from a contact, that very same week, I began to wonder: Is LinkedIn too easy for social media abusers to use and abuse as a dating platform?

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This time, a new contact – again, a seemingly legitimate one, with whom I shared several common ‘connections’ – emailed me this ridiculous and gross message. Here it is, word-for-word. Warning: you may need a bucket.

“How are you today beautiful one, hope you are doing well? Thank you for connecting with me on this great site (LinkedIn). Could you please tell me more about you maybe we can also share good ideas.

“I must tell you less i forget you are indeed a very beautiful looking woman with a sweet charming face, what a wonderful warming smile on it. Hope to hear from you soon.”

For the record, the above dodgy punctuation, grammar and spelling are all his and only made me dislike him even more. What a disrespectful dickhead?! It’s tempting to out this guy here – seemingly, a prominent businessman – but I’d hate to have to acknowledge him in any way. No businesswoman I know is on LinkedIn for cheap, casual hook-ups, and I’m far from alone in receiving unwanted attention from so-called businessmen.

So, what gives? What’s the best approach to take? Should women just rise above this annoying behaviour or respond to it? Personally, I’m hardcore – I take an immediate ‘ignore, block and report’ approach across all social media platforms the minute someone’s interacted with me in a dodgy or creepy fashion. And so I happily did this with gusto, upon last week’s unwanted advances times two.

Did I hear back from LinkedIn? Nope. And so I contacted LinkedIn’s press office for answers as to how it feels about being used as a cheap dating site. After all, LinkedIn recently proclaimed its revenue for the fourth quarter was US$643 million – that’s no small fry. Why shouldn’t it be held accountable for members’ unethical and dodgy behaviour? And aren’t these unwelcome advances on LinkedIn akin to just another form of sexual harassment?

At publication time, despite repeated contact attempts, I did not receive an official response from LinkedIn.

social media predators, business expert, career advice

However, Jodie Bache-McLean, director of both June Dally-Watkins (JDW) and Dallys Model Management – who’s a well-respected national and international business etiquette expert – was horrified by the idea of LinkedIn being used and abused as an unofficial dating tool. Jodie, (pictured), said it was highly unethical business conduct to use LinkedIn to hit on people. “From my understanding, LinkedIn was, or is, a business-minded social networking site,” she says.

“The main use is intended for professional networking; to facilitate the online exchange of ideas, information and opportunities in a commercial environment, helping you to build your business contacts and opportunities.

“My thoughts are that it is highly unprofessional to use this site as a way to source potential dating candidates – it’s not the platform most of us have joined this site for, myself included.”

Furthermore, using LinkedIn to make sexual advances towards business people is highly offensive behaviour, Jodie says. “If we were to align this practice to business etiquette, some people would feel very offended when the intention is to build their business network community, and they are instead receiving invitations for dinner, drinks or comments on their attractiveness. How is this relevant to your business?”

social media predators, business expert, career advice

Jodie advises business women (and men) to ignore unwanted advances from strangers and block the sender. However, if the unsolicited attention comes from an acquaintance, you may need to address it. “If this person is known to you, you could simply acknowledge the correspondence, and let them know that you are confused about the message. If it continues, politely refuse the invitation, then if you feel the need, block them,” Jodie says.

“The unfortunate thing is email correspondence can sometimes be misinterpreted, but I think if the correspondence becomes inappropriate, you should flag that with the sender and let them know that the implied message is making you feel uncomfortable, and perhaps they should stop communicating with you.” 

Interestingly, Jodie says one way to avoid the trolls and unwanted advances on LinkedIn is by not using a profile photo. “This is the million dollar question, how do we stop online abuse?” she says. 

“We can certainly block these people, and there is a great saying: ‘What you think of me, is none of my business’ so trying not to read the abuse may be helpful. You of course can and should report the person if the abuse reaches a point where it is harassment.

“I personally do not have a photo on my profile, and am constantly reminded by LinkedIn that if I did, it would improve my networking ability. I still find that confusing, as why will an image of me create more opportunity? Is it because it is putting a face to a name? Or because it shows that I am a real person?

“In my profession, I am often requested to send my photo and bio when I am speaking at events, as it is part of the marketing, so the photo seems relevant, as you are marketing yourself.

“It’s such a shame that some less professional persons than ourselves see LinkedIn as an opportunity to scan your image and profile for purposes that were not your original intention.”

What do you think? Should LinkedIn be used as a dating platform?

Images via the Telegraph and Mashable