Why single people are using LinkedIn as a dating app

LinkedIn dating app. (Getty Images)
Have you ever spared a connection with someone on LinkedIn? (Getty Images)

If you haven't already heard, singles are turning to LinkedIn as a dating app. From one woman who went viral on TikTok for sharing she uses the professional networking site to find potential matches because she can filter by education, industry – "looking at doctor, lawyer, finance bro" – and country, to those sharing their LinkedIn love stories.

But why are some singles (particularly Gen Z and millennials who are used to utilising social apps) claiming to have more success on the business site than on the likes of Tinder, Hinge and Bumble? And is merging our professional and personal life in an online space, not designed for this purpose, really okay?

Here, we consult BACP-registered relationships counsellors Lisa Spitz and Georgina Sturmer about what might be driving this steer in people's behaviour when looking for love.

Young man using laptop and smiling at home. Man sitting by table working on laptop computer.
LinkedIn is giving singles something actual dating apps aren't. (Getty Images)

When dating sites and apps emerged onto the scene, Sturmer says they offered a welcome opportunity for people who struggled to meet prospective dates.

"They helped us to connect," she explains.

However, she adds: "Since their inception, the landscape of social media has changed the online world, and it feels as if these dating apps have followed suit. For some users, what used to be a fun and exciting opportunity to meet someone new has become an overwhelming and addictive frenzy of scrolling and swiping. Something that used to help us connect with others has started to make us feel more disconnected. And potentially more alone and anxious."

By contrast, she says, a site like LinkedIn offers something slightly different.

"A way of connecting with other people without dating being at the fore. A way of gaining a real glimpse into someone’s life – or at least their professional life – rather than simply viewing an identikit profile and a couple of pictures."

For some dating app users, what used to be a fun and exciting opportunity to meet someone new has become an overwhelming and addictive frenzy of scrolling and swiping

People tend to be who they say they are for starters.

"Dating apps offer an opportunity for people to conceal their identities and accomplishments while on LinkedIn you tend to be verified by other users," adds Spitz.

In a nutshell, Sturmer believes the trend comes with five defining motivational factors (whether more positive or negative)...

BRAZIL - 2021/01/25: In this photo illustration the Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, LinkedIn and Slack app and logos seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LinkedIn may come across more authentic. (Getty Images)

Sturmer says the public and professional nature of LinkedIn means that there’s a sense the information on there seems more verified and trustworthy. "This runs counter to the narrative that anyone can say anything on dating apps," she explains. "We’ve always talked about the potential for fear or mistrust on dating apps, since the era of 'catfishing'. But it feels as if we are hearing more stories about their untrustworthy nature, including groups like 'are we dating the same guy'."

And with us living in an increasingly uncertain and anxious world, people inevitably crave more 'certainty' in their lives.

This allows us to build a picture of the type of people who they work or socialise with. "If we can understand the social fabric of someone’s life, it helps us to build a realistic understanding of who they are and who they spend their time with," says Sturmer.

"If earnings and status are important to us, then LinkedIn gives us an opportunity to figure out how a potential partner might stack up against our hopes or expectations," the counsellor adds.

"It’s socially acceptable to be on LinkedIn during work time, so it avoids the embarrassment or awkwardness of having a colleague or manager seeing us on a dating app," says Sturmer. This may also apply outside of work, for those hesitant to use the apps.

"We spent so much time at work, and thinking about work, that for many of us the boundaries between our personal and professional lives have become blurred," Sturmer adds.

Serious boyfriend and his unrecognizable girlfriend looking down while standing together at the city street.
If dating someone you met on LinkedIn doesn't end well, they could be harder to avoid online after. (Getty Images)

While LinkedIn might feel more authentic, Sturmer reminds us it's still likely their 'work persona', and if things don't work out but you have a professional connection with them, it might not be as easy to just 'block and move on'.

Plus, she adds, "Dating apps, and to a certain extent other social media sites, give us a sense as to whether or not someone else is single, or looking to date. LinkedIn doesn’t offer this functionality, and so there’s a risk that we might attempt to connect with someone for this purpose when they are not looking to date anyone."

And we might be at risk of being more shallow if judging mainly on job. "If we put status and salary at the top of our list, then there’s a risk that we will miss out on meeting someone who we really connect with, or challenging our perceptions of different roles and levels," says Sturmer.

However, commenting on the viral TikToker, one example of many, Spitz argues, "At least she’s honest! Seriously though don’t we do that more quietly? Choose potential partners on looks, standard of living, and aspirations?"

Shot of a young woman wearing headphones while using her cellphone at home
Unsolicited flirty messages on a professional networking site are never okay. (Getty Images)

Sturmer says it's a tricky balance. "LinkedIn has traditionally had a professional and boundaried tone," she explains. "So if we start to use it for something more personal, we are potentially opening the door for a less professional approach. It’s likely to depend on the sector or industry we're in, as some use it in a 'friendlier' and less formal capacity than others."

Spitz adds, "Personally I think there should be boundaries between your personal and professional life (in public at least). Openly using LinkedIn as a dating app devalues people who genuinely want to use if for business. I have also seen many conversations about women being approached or had pictures commented on by men and how creepy that is."

So, what should the etiquette be and is it okay in the first place? Sturmer suggests, "Consider treating it in the same way you might treat an IRL networking event. There’s absolutely an opportunity for 'eyes to meet across a crowded room' but we should handle our communications and contacts in a professional way. This protects us from the possibility that the other person is not interested in using LinkedIn in this way."

Spitz adds, "I think if you start a conversation about work or contacts that's okay and, if after a suitable period of time, the conversation veers off to the more personal that's okay – with consent. But please don’t assume that LinkedIn is just a new source of potentials. Flirting with someone that's not interested is not acceptable and might actually affect your work potential." As a general rule, Spitz believes we should otherwise keep to the apps or social media (or IRL, of course).

Flirting with someone on LinkedIn that's not interested is not acceptable and might actually affect your work potential

couple with heart balloon
People are looking for true connection. (Getty Images)

Sturmer points to the 'business model' of dating apps, designed to help us find someone special, but also likely not wanting to be too good to the point they're no longer needed. "Perhaps this leaves us somewhat dissatisfied, but yet continuing to be hooked into the process [or seeking a version of it we think suits us better elsewhere]," says Sturmer.

"I think people are looking for love and connection and will keep trying new ways until they either meet or give up," says Spitz. "Most people wish to meet in real life but this isn’t always an option and online increases your opportunity. However, without the opportunity to check people out through contacts, you might meet a lot of avoidant types or those just looking for a good time.

"True connection is what is needed, however that's achieved..."

A LinkedIn spokesperson told Yahoo UK, "LinkedIn is a professional community and we encourage our members to engage in meaningful, authentic conversations. Romantic advances and harassment of any form is a violation of our rules, and our community policies include detailed examples that show what kind of content does not belong on LinkedIn. Members can report any instances of harassment on LinkedIn and signal to us that such behaviour is unwanted, allowing us to take action."

People are looking for love and connection and will keep trying new ways until they either meet or give up

Watch: Josie Gibson reveals why she doesn't use dating apps