Can dating apps help you professionally? This week, Alessandra Malito and Elisabeth Buchwald reported a surprising story at Marketwatch. In it, young singles are using apps like Tinder and OKCupid not to find love but to find a job or promote their existing business.
If that’s the silliest thing you’ve ever heard, you’re not alone. But here we are, after a year plus of the #MeToo movement and people are ready to blur romantic and professional lines again.
The Dating apps say it’s fine. “Dating apps have become a very normalized way of meeting people professionally,” said Alex Williamson, chief brand officer of Bumble. “It’s a comfortable way to reach out and get to know someone else.”
When everything is “Social Media,” what’s the problem?
The problem is the crossed streams. When the expectation is romantic and the result is professional, it can lead to hurt feelings or worse. Much worse.
Deciding to find a job on a dating app or a date on a job app may be unwise at a moment when an inappropriate comment or interaction could get you fired or blacklisted from your industry.
In 2016, the reverse situation hit the news. A young attorney in Britain named Charlotte Proudman posted flirty messages from Alexander Carter-Silk, an attorney thirty years her senior. Proudman had attemped to connect with Carter-Silk on LinkedIn, a professional social media network.
In the land of social media, Carter-Silk’s come-on was relatively tame. He complimented her “stunning picture” and noted it was the best he has seen on LinkedIn. But LinkedIn is specifically not made for that kind of banter. It’s made for professional connections. Yet this story, a year before the start of the #MeToo movement, didn’t result in much blame for Carter-Silk. In fact, Proudman was widely criticized for making a big deal of some kind words.
Since then, the crossover between professional and romantic has become rife with conflict. Many #MeToo stories began as romantic overtures in a professional setting. Is the current atmosphere really the right one to experiment with dating your coworker?
The Malito and Buchwald piece does make this point. “Mixing work and dating is fraught with potential pitfalls. People should be clear about their intentions, especially because mixed signals could put both parties in an uncomfortable situation,” the article quotes Megan Bruneau, therapist and life coach, as saying. “It’s certainly not advisable to have intimate relations with someone you meet on a dating app, especially if that person becomes your subordinate,” it continues.
And be careful with the reverse as well. Shoshana Weissmann, who manages digital media at the R Street Institute recently tweeted, “I think the worst way a guy has ever hit on me was reaching out about my consulting services, asking how to get verified, then saying he wasn't interested in my work services but gave me his number to talk more. Do not do this, men.”
Women shouldn’t either, though the difference between the sexes being what they are, men are less likely to find inappropriate come-ons troublesome. Sex writer Maria Yagoda wrote a piece for Vice Magazine about her experiences flirting on LinkedIn. She didn’t get any outraged responses but also didn’t get any action. “After four days of trying to get laid via the site, I'm secure enough to admit that nothing happened. I don't think I put myself out there enough, and I only reached out to people tangentially in my network. I guess I've never fully appreciated how easy dating apps make the process, as everyone's intent is more or less the same.”
A piece in Wired last year noted there is nothing wrong with flirting on LinkedIn. Writer Jon Mooallem asked “Why shouldn’t you flirt on LinkedIn? Why shouldn’t love be one of the opportunities LinkedIn connects us with?” But the career site The Ladders disagrees. “Flirting on LinkedIn isn’t just counterproductive — it can come across as wildly inappropriate,” writer Jane Burnett urges.
What are people thinking? The easiest lesson to learn from the last year of disgraced men is to have borders in your life that don’t get crossed. Don’t hit on your secretary, don’t make people in professional settings uncomfortable. It’s not that hard. This new game of approaching people romantically to help your job won’t end well.
We’re living in a time of very limited gray areas. Lines are drawn and sides are picked. Deciding to find a job on a dating app or a date on a job app may be unwise at a moment when an inappropriate comment or interaction could get you fired or blacklisted from your industry. It would be nice to live in a world where human interactions could have various potentials. Maybe we will someday get back to that. In the meantime, err on the side of caution and use apps for their designed purpose.