A helicopter pilot once viewed my LinkedIn profile five times in one day before sliding into my DMs. As bizarre as this sounds, I know that I am not alone in experiencing harassment on the platform. Numerous women have come forward about harassment on LinkedIn, and unpleasant experiences sparked the creation of the website CreepedIn, which documents users’ encounters with inappropriate messages. On a forum where professionals want to be recognized for their accomplishments, some individuals are objectified for their appearance instead. Inappropriate LinkedIn profile views affect many users, but they place students in a particularly vulnerable position. Online spaces should not be exempt from zero-tolerance standards for sexist behaviour.
As students prepare to enter the workforce, creating a LinkedIn profile is often the first step in seeking—it generally serves as a first introduction to the opportunities which exist outside of McGill. Although useful, LinkedIn is undeniably strange. It is invariably cluttered with sponsored spam in users’ inbox, and odd lingo such as ‘gurus’, ‘ninjas’, and ‘jedis’. While harassment pervades all social media platforms, LinkedIn differs in that the website sends users a notification when another user views their profile. LinkedIn’s primary efforts to stay engaging and relevant neglects important components of the workplace, like the importance of workplace conduct and resources to help victims of harassment, online and offline.
Profile views are LinkedIn’s currency of clout, boosting users’ egos and keeping them addicted to the site. Often times, the feature is useful, and I find it exciting to see that employers that I look up to are viewing my profile. Most of the time, however, my notifications are populated by user profiles from individuals who work in fields unrelated to my own and whose only unifying trait is that they are middle-aged men. Initially, I had no idea how or why this was happening. However, I realized that I am a young, inexperienced student soon to enter the workforce and that being ‘viewed’ is inherent to LinkedIn and the professional world at large. As students, the early stages of employment are often precarious—especially as we land in ‘probationary’ paid and unpaid internships and entry-level positions. Many of us will face exploitative labor, workplace discrimination and harassment, but still don’t know how to deal with it. This is something we’re introduced to through LinkedIn views and will repeatedly endure in the workforce—universities should prepare us for this as its internship networks and career portals connect us to future employers.
The traditional solution to unwanted social media attention is going into ‘private’ mode: Hiding your profile picture, connections, bio, and everything else related to your profile. But LinkedIn is different because, on this platform, you need to be seen. Obscuring your profile is potentially harmful to your professional future and does nothing to address the root issues of harassment in work-adjacent environments. No one, especially femme-identifying workers and others vulnerable to harassment, should feel the need to hide from professional spaces.
The public nature of LinkedIn gives students an unfortunate, yet realistic introduction to the professional world. Harassment happens in offices, just as it does online. Too many of us have unpleasant and traumatic introductions to a world in which we are being ‘viewed’ inappropriately and it’s essential spaces we interact in foster respect and do not tolerate predatory behaviour. Just as McGill offers Career Development Workshops, Career Advising and even LinkedIn Advising, it should also warn of potential dangers in all workplace environments, including cyber spaces. Too many of us have unpleasant and traumatic introductions to a world in which we are inappropriately and unwarrantedly being ‘viewed,’ online and offline. It’s time that we’re viewed for the right reasons.