I’m a millennial. That means most of my friends have babies or jobs where they spend most of the day in front of a computer. These are not lives that easily translate to visual platforms like TikTok or Instagram. If I open Instagram today, my feed is clogged with ads and posts from brands I no longer like and musicians I barely listen to (sorry, Dua Lipa).
LinkedIn, however, feels like the last remnant of the centralized internet of the 2010s. For people who grew up using Bebo, Myspace, and Facebook, the way LinkedIn serves them up with text and images in a single news feed is resonant. comfortable and familiar. I still use messaging apps like everyone else. But while groups on WhatsApp and Signal require active participation, LinkedIn still allows you to scroll passively.
If Facebook’s problem was too many people joining, making the news feed feel jarring (does anyone need their ex-boyfriend’s latest updates to appear next to their aunt’s?), Twitter 250 million the user base was too specific. For me, Twitter is a social media silo; it’s where I interact with people I meet mostly through work. I feel like a whole part of my life is missing, my life outside of work.
My own LinkedIn habit started when I joined WIRED and saw colleagues using the site to share their articles. The platform claims almost 900 million users. So, in a ruthless search for readers, I joined them. Then something strange happened. Those who interacted with my posts weren’t just people I knew through work. They were school friends, college roommates, people I had known for decades. If I shared good news on LinkedIn, my friends would congratulate me in person that weekend. Suddenly, I was faced with the prospect that a “professional network” was achieving what Twitter had never achieved. It was merging my work life and my social life. LinkedIn was becoming a unique social networking site.
That doesn’t mean everyone who uses LinkedIn is having fun. Even the friends I see there describe their participation as grudging. They say they like to see updates from their friends on the site, but they’re on LinkedIn mainly for their career. “Work encourages us to use it and I think it’s quite good to get your name out there,” says Delia, who works in real estate in London. She might use LinkedIn every day, but she wouldn’t describe herself as an addict. “Give me dog videos on Instagram any day.”
LinkedIn refused to tell me whether or not it had seen an increase in usage since Elon Musk took over Twitter. Alternatively, the platform might not be perfect either. If people’s problem with Twitter is that it’s run by the world’s richest man, it might not make sense to switch allegiance to a platform owned by Microsoft, a company founded by the world’s fifth-richest man, Bill Gates. Cost is also an issue. “LinkedIn Premium membership is expensive,” says Corinne Podger, who runs training programs for journalists. A monthly subscription starts at $29.99 per month.
But at least within my group of friends, LinkedIn is finding a new relevance, even if talking about it feels wrong, almost taboo. But the fact that you see more active close friends on LinkedIn than on any other platform shows how fragmented the social media industry is. The rise of LinkedIn could signal the death of social media as we know it, or the start of a new kind of unhealthy online presence where it’s impossible to separate work from your social life. But I’m sure of one thing: many of my friends may be using LinkedIn, but I have yet to find one who is proud of it.