For some time now I’ve been trying to combat sexism and harassment on LinkedIn. Truthfully, it’s an uphill battle. I am not convinced I am getting anywhere at all. So I thought I really have to come at this problem from a different angle. To quote Einstein “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
He was right.
Here’s what I observe. A flash poll from LinkedIn expert Andy Foote around receiving creepy advances on LinkedIn, shows us that 65% of respondents indicated the affirmative. They are firmly in the camp that LinkedIn is not a dating site. As I am.
But like everything there is nuance.
On this topic there seem to be two areas of disconnect.
1. The 65%
They generally don’t welcome random people appearing in their in-boxes with sparkling one-liners worthy of a double digit IQ, such as “Hello” and “Howz it going.”
Nor to they appreciate comments on their appearance, smile, eyes and other body parts.
Their reaction is to ignore the interaction and block, or in fewer cases, report.
2. The 35%
This group falls into 4 categories:
🎯 LinkedIn Lotharios: these people assume that all women are simply waiting for the aforementioned messages to brighten up their otherwise dull days. Of course – why wouldn’t we? They don’t understand that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that many women feel vulnerable on social media and is one of the reasons there is a gender networking gap is beyond them.
They believe that women need to get over it. This tone deafness suggests that they have no idea that these overtures may trigger historical issues. 90% of women have experienced sexism and sexual harassment and are generally cautious. According to U.S. gender violence expert Jackson Katz, men have concerns about their sexual safety in one situation only. Prison. It’s the whole slipping on the soap thing.
The Lotharios who track email addresses of their targets to send billets doux, are creepier. There is a sense of entitlement. Even I get those.
🎯LinkedIn Lolitas: as flagged up in a recent post by Brittinay Lenhart These are women who post “irrelevant selfies” for engagement. Posts can be anything from landing a dream job to concern about global carbon foot print. They enjoy and seek compliments.
🎯 LinkedIn Authentics: this group believe it’s important to pitch up as your authentic and whole self so we should feel free to post whatever we like. Sometimes it’s probably a better idea that some of that self is left where it belongs. At home.
🎯 Looking for love: this is a group which is genuinely open to possibilities. And I get this. With COVID and remote working the opportunities to meet new potential romantic partners is limited. Romance happens in the office and a professional setting. And LinkedIn is in theory a rich data base of possibly like minded-soul mates.
So why not… provided that it is consensual?
You might be in the same sector, live in the same area and follow the same hashtags. You could bond over your favourite polls and be in the same groups. The possibilities for synergy are endless.
This is the group whose needs we need to meet urgently.
So here is my idea. Bear with me and hear me out. This is a fledging notion but I have probably put more thought into it than an Influencer’s viral LinkedIn poll.
Rather than all of us spending hours of time filing reports and blocking those that cross our personal lines, or scrolling by content we are not interested in, let’s have a separate consensual space for those who are open to other non-professional possibilities. This is no different to being open to contact from a recruiter, a volunteering position or a NED role.
It makes perfect sense.
Communicating the message
I suggest LinkedIn create a secure space and have individuals who are open to this type of relationship indicate on their profiles that they are willing to engage. I am clearly not in a dating demographic, so would no more think of making suggestions on this than I would on the evacuation of Kabul. This is big picture stuff. I would count on people au fait with the practicalities to step up and create a brilliant branding message.
I am personally a fan of discreet and quite like the idea of a rose. I’m not tied into this and suspect it might be old school and low key, so it is my last word on the matter. Participants could even attach a link to their online dating app in their contact details. I even toyed with icons for “looking” and “open.” I think they are pretty good even if I say so myself;
There would also have to be very rigorously enforced rules and boundaries outside LinkedIn Love. No rose. No deal. No LinkedIn. What happens in the rose garden, stays in the rose garden. That sort of vibe. If you want out, or snag the partner of your dreams, you take down your rose.
It also means that all parties are aware that this type of approach is acceptable and there are no hurt feelings and embarrassment. No lines are crossed because everyone knows what they are.
Problem solved. They get what they are looking for and we get left in peace.
This can also be extended to other areas. One of the biggest challenges on LinkedIn is finding the content you want to engage in. With pre-assigned categories you can post your content in a particular category which you choose you depending on the focus of your post.
Here are a few suggestions.
- LinkedIn Food: here people could post pictures of food and drinks. My personal recommendation would be that it has to look moderately appetizing. Some of the offerings look as if they have been regurgitated by a family pet. But this is not my thing and I would be unlikely to look, so leave that to the organizers.
- LinkedIn Kids and Family: this would include photos of any family members. No quality guidelines here. They are all cute.
- LinkedIn Trivia: this is all the lighter fun things that are the breath of life to some, yet suck the same life out of others. With it all siphoned off you can choose to swing by or not.
- LinkedIn Warming Anecdotes: here you can put all the heart felt stories about unemployment, poverty, illness, war and so on. My personal feeling is including a snake oil commercial offering in these circumstances to profit from someone else’s hardship or tragedy is low. But I’m weird like that.
OK. I get that a post can cover multiple categories. A family dinner can be both food and family and more complex if a pet is in it and you are celebrating the first billion of a once homeless, disabled, war veteran, turned social media guru. This is a minor detail and I would probably go for all three unless someone makes a category LinkedIn Pets. That sounds highly probably. It would not constitute flooding because you would have to make a decision to look in each category.
I have given up on the plague of polls! There is a special place in cyber hell for these already.
So what do you think? Does this idea have legs? Or am I way off?
LinkedIn… you are most welcome.
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