One evening two years ago, LinkedIn sent me this message: “Klaus viewed your profile 11 times today”. As Klaus’s LinkedIn viewing patterns merited a restraining order, I thought of calling the police.
Then I opened his profile. Klaus, which is not his name, was head of equity capital markets at one of the largest investment banks in the world. A position as distinguished as this surely came with gravitas and a reasonable disposition. Eleven views must be a technical glitch. Besides, Klaus and I had a few connections in common, and I thought this was a guarantee against anything untoward.
I sent him a message.
“Do I know you?”
“Not yet!!!”, came an immediate response, followed by five emojis, all meant to convey hopefulness and excitement. So much for gravitas.
In the exchange that followed, Klaus told me that he saw my “charismatic” photo on LinkedIn and liked it very much. He was typing this message from a magnificent office in a shiny building in the vibrant business capital of a very rich country whose trading model with the EU we may or may not end up imitating after Brexit, but he was ready to jump on the next plane and meet me in London.
Should people chat each other up on LinkedIn? I don’t see why not. After all, it’s not that different from meeting someone at business drinks. You are not supposed to court someone at business drinks either, but people do meet and fall in love through work.
From time to time, when a profile of someone ridiculously good-looking pops up on LinkedIn, I check it out with delight. Sometimes I would tell my partner: “Look how hot this guy is. What is he doing in asset finance?”
Earlier this year, someone started checking my LinkedIn profile on a regular basis. It turned out that we went to the same business school, so we started chatting.
Michael, which is also not his name, worked in a large private equity-backed company, and sitting in a London office which was perhaps not as glamorous as Klaus’s, he would spend hours a day messaging. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, he would suggest “jumping in an Uber” to come and see me. My partner used to work in private equity, and when I showed him this exchange, I don’t know what upset him more: the fact that firms don’t instil better discipline in their portfolio companies, or that they don’t pay their employees enough to take a proper taxi.
How much spare time do office workers have? It’s possible that I caught Klaus and Michael at a quiet time – or at least this is what I thought. But no: when Klaus browsed the internet for pictures of pretty girls, his rivals were conjuring up IPOs from thin air; and when Michael entered home addresses of random women from LinkedIn into his Uber app, his firm’s investors had just announced its sale.
Or do people delude themselves that LinkedIn flirting is not really flirting, but more like work, building contacts, etc? After all, it’s perfectly acceptable to sit in the office with LinkedIn open on your screen – as opposed to say, eHarmony or, god forbid, Tinder.
Is it what people also tell their partners? Klaus said he had a wife, but she was “not a problem”, and Michael’s girlfriend had just ditched him, probably because of serial LinkedIn indiscretions.
I can’t see why people shouldn’t fall in love on LinkedIn. At the same time, if you are routinely using LinkedIn as an extra-marital dating tool, be ready for push-back from traditionalists who use it for its original purpose: finding a job. Or from columnists gathering material for the next article.