The other day I received a notification that a few people had viewed my LinkedIn profile, one of whom was a staff writer at Forbes Magazine. WHAT?? My heart began to race and my palms got sweaty on my keyboard as I wondered what it all meant. This person had his or her settings programmed to only show me company and job title. When I clicked on the information I had, a list of ten possible people showed up, so basically anonymous.
How come this person didn’t reach out and send me a message? How did they find me? Why were they even looking at all? DID HE OR SHE WANT ME TO WRITE FOR FORBES?? Yes, this was the crazy talking, but I couldn’t stop and acknowledge how my behavior mirrored that of an online dater. It was a little disconcerting that the one social network I participate in that is exclusively professional made me feel like an anxious sixteen year old wondering if he will call.
Feeling uneasy about this LinkedIn feature that allows you access to professional voyeurism, I asked around the office to see what my co-workers thought, seeing as I knew at least one person had strong opinions about endorsements.
It seems like there was roughly a 50/50 split amongst the office of whether or not being able to know when someone checked out your profile was “creepy.” Interestingly, while there were some Millennials who love it, and some slightly older folk who found it to be invasive, it seems most junior staffers are against the feature with the favoring party in more senior positions.
“I’ll be honest, sometimes I specifically don’t look at a person’s profile on LinkedIn, because they’ll know I’m perusing their profile. Whether it’s good or bad probably depends on my history with that person. I’ve always thought of creating a LinkedIn alias (but have yet to actually do it) so that I could browse freely without leaving tracks.”
“The feature DEFINITELY affects the way I use LinkedIn. I actively avoid visiting people’s pages, fearing that I will be dubbed “stalker!” by anyone who sees I visited their profile. I can’t imagine how mine and other’s behaviors on Facebook would drastically change, if this option was available on more socially focused sites like Facebook.”
“I love having this information, but hate that others can see when I look at them.”
“I think it is really weird, which is why I have mine disabled. Now, that means I can’t see who is viewing my profile either, but I am completely fine with that. A lot of people, especially millennials, enjoy the anonymity of perusing online. So, when a site chooses to document my every page view, I am deterred from spending more time on the site.”
“I actually have the option turned off so that people can’t see that I’ve viewed their profile. In turn, though, I can’t see that they’ve viewed mine. It’s as creepy as if you were able to see who had viewed your Facebook profile.”
Gen X Perspective:
“I actually feel this is valuable from two perspectives. Mine maybe different as I am looking to sell. It helps me see who is doing research on me that I may have reached out to. Personally it helps me see if recruiters maybe looking at my profile.”
“No, not creepy. This is a business networking site not a purely social one. I find it very valuable to see who is looking at my profile, both personally (investors, recruiters) and professionally (investors, clients, prospects, partners, job applicants, colleagues). “
“It is definitely a little creepy but also insightful. I met a client over the phone for the first time yesterday and within the hour I received a notice that he had looked at my profile. At the same time, I received a LinkedIn message from a previous business acquaintance that she saw I had been looking at her profile – I didn’t even remember looking at her profile. 1 part nice to know and 1 part unintentional stalker. “
“I think in addition to posing the “IS IT CREEPY” question, we should answer the question “why would one need privacy in business networking?”… It seems like a shady proposition for a business networking social media platform. I mean, what types of activities is one performing that they would want privacy? Seems shady to me… stalking an ex-girlfriend? Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn represents a more realistic environment where one person has to somewhat justify who they really are… this isn’t MySpace where it is the perceived impression of oneself. Personally, I regularly see people I am about to meet with look at my profile for my background, connections, etc. Good for them, I am glad they are doing their homework. Business development is about who you know… and tools like this enable connections to develop. My business profile is part of my brand – I want to know who is engaged with me, my content, my background, and perhaps it spurs a new business opportunity down the road.”
“I like it because it shows that client prospects are doing their due diligence. Of course, it is always better news when it is followed by a LinkedIn Request. In a day and age where people are Tweeting their thoughts, friends, lunch locations, night out locations, etc…, people looking at my job history ranks low on the creepy scale.”
“I think not creepy. Since LinkedIn is intended for networking and is making a push to become a source for employers/recruiters, it’s nice to know if people are looking. If you’re not getting contacts after those looks, then it probably means your profile needs updating. I don’t think it’s any different from posting a resume on Monster for recruiters to search.”
What Can We Infer?
Millennials came of age in a world of social networking. Our offline feelings can easily be hurt by online words, and our network of over a thousand can often make us feel like we’re living our lives in a glass house. We’re all hyper aware of privacy because we understand the consequences of online privacy gone awry via social media.
Many of the millennials who said the feature was creepy, also suggested that it would be more so on a platform like Facebook, where more personal details are housed. Even though I do think the professional voyeurism is a little weird, we should all take a page from our older and wiser mentors and GET OVER IT. We need to abandon our social media trust issues and realize that LinkedIn isn’t the platform that has abused you in the past — its intentions are benign.
Even if LinkedIn takes baby steps toward becoming a more relevant platform (new interface, endorsements, etc.), it’s primary purpose remains unchanged: connect professionals in an easy and effective way.
I’m fine with people looking at my LinkedIn profile, but if you’re from Forbes, or somewhere equally cool, please send me a message for the love of everything. Otherwise I’m going to wait by the inbox wondering why you never wrote.