LinkedIn and Creeped Out

Just when you thought there was a safe place to make professional connections online, people started sending messages worthy of sexual harassment suits through LinkedIn. The site, a professional networking site, is advertised for expanding business and employing connections. LinkedIn is widely used by students at the University of  San Diego, though unwanted messages are leaving some students uneasy.

Creepy LinkedIn messages are so common that two websites were started to share screenshots of inappropriate messages sent via the networking platform. The websites SocialCreeps and allow users to submit these messages, which are the stuff of nightmares. The platform that was designed for professional business owners to find employees has been invaded by men who can’t resist a dating site pick-up line when they come across a girl with a nice headshot.

I have personally received three aggressively inappropriate messages from men who I don’t know on LinkedIn over the past year while my account has been active. The most recent one read along the lines of, “Hi, I like your picture, what are your plans for the night?”

The only action one can take within the inbox to stop these men is reporting them as spam, which doesn’t quite define what it is. You don’t have to be connected to someone for them to message you either. If you belong to the same group or have a shared connection, someone can pop up in your inbox. On a site that hosts your entire resume, including where you currently work, these bizarre cyber interactions can turn into real life harassment.

A creepy LinkedIn message even found itself at the center of a murder investigation in Texas earlier this year. A female fitness instructor was killed at the gym where she was set to teach a class just three days after receiving the message. The police are still investigating the possible connection.

While the problem isn’t universal for all LinkedIn users, a solution to these unwanted solicitations would certainly put the female community more at ease. Senior Kaitlin Goodhart said that she feels like the people using LinkedIn inappropriately could be contributing to the recent loss of users and decline in business.

“All of these older business men are kind of reforming the image that LinkedIn was originally designed [for], and I think it is leading people away from LinkedIn,” Goodhart said. “It’s making it hard to decide if you can trust people on there or not. It’s making it difficult for female entrepreneurs and young women looking for job opportunities to know if what they are being offered is legitimate or not because there is no way to verify if these men are who they say they are.”

Goodhart has received unprofessional messages on LinkedIn that have deterred her from using it.

“I have received one unprofessional message that was like ‘You are extremely gorgeous and seem extremely motivated, and I’d like to set up an interview with you,’” Goodhart said. “I just think any comments about appearance should be left out of a professional website.”

A study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2013 showed that 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates to fill positions. Those numbers have declined with the rise of other professional networks according to the Recruiting Times. In February, LinkedIn stocks plummeted $10 billion in one day. Though this cannot be attributed to creepy messages, the decline in profits could be related to a decline in users. LinkedIn’s stock has started to climb again but has not fully recovered yet.

There are also some copycat networks that are taking more innovating leaps than LinkedIn. Entelo is a site developed specifically for recruitment, rather than running as a two-way street between employers and employment seekers. Github has taken LinkedIn’s idea and found a niche market, software developers, and connects users together. It also doubles as a platform for companies to build and store codes with their teams in a secure cloud.

Even Facebook has taken steps to improve its use for professional networking. The updated profiles now list current occupation, followed by previous jobs, and then education at the top so that it reads almost like bullet points on a resume. It also leaves room for users to write an introduction in 101 characters at the top, similar to a personal statement.

With other options out there, it’s no wonder that students aren’t sold on LinkedIn. There are some things that technology just can’t replace. An in-person business connection, solidified with a firm handshake, seems to be one of them.

By Brooklyn Dippo, Editor in Chief