I’m a millennial. This means that many of my friends have babies or jobs where they spend a lot of time on the computer. These are not lives that translate easily to platforms like TikTok or Instagram. If I open Instagram today, my feed is filled with ads and posts from brands I no longer like and musicians I don’t listen to (sorry, Dua Lipa).
LinkedIn, however, appears to be the last phase of the Internet in the mid-2010s. For people who grew up using Bebo, Myspace, and Facebook, LinkedIn’s ability to send you text messages and photos in a single message is comfortable and familiar. I still use messaging apps like everyone else. But while WhatsApp and Signal groups require immediate action, LinkedIn allows you to just walk around.
If Facebook’s problem was that more people joined it, making news stories more logical (does anyone want their ex-boyfriend’s latest updates to be shared with their aunt?), Twitter’s 250 million users were very few. For me, Twitter is not social media; it’s where I hang out with the people I meet the most at work. It feels like a whole part of my life, my life outside of work, is missing.
My LinkedIn addiction started when I joined WIRED and saw my friends using the site to share their articles. The platform claims about 900 million users. So, in search of aggressive readers, I joined them. Then a strange thing happened. Those who interacted with my posts were not the only people I knew from work. They were my schoolmates, my university friends, people I had known for many years. If I shared the good news on LinkedIn, my friends would personally congratulate me that week. Suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of “network experts” achieving what Twitter never had. It was a combination of my work life and my social life. LinkedIn became a social networking site.
This does not mean that everyone who uses LinkedIn is happy. Even the friends I see there explain that participating was difficult. They say they enjoy seeing their friends’ updates on the site but are on LinkedIn mainly for their work. “Work encourages us to use it and I think it’s good to put your name out there,” said Delia, who works in real estate in London. They may use LinkedIn every day but they wouldn’t describe themselves as an addict. “Give me dog videos on Instagram any day.”
LinkedIn declined to tell me if it has or has not seen a ride in use since Elon Musk took over Twitter. In fact, the platform may not be perfect. If people’s problem with Twitter is that it is run by the richest man in the world, perhaps switching allegiance to the Microsoft platform—a business founded by the fifth richest man in the world, Bill Gates—would not make sense. Cost is also an issue. “LinkedIn Premium membership is expensive,” says Corinne Podger, who runs media training programs. Monthly subscriptions start at $29.99 per month.
But within my circle of friends at least, LinkedIn is gaining new importance, even if talking about it seems wrong, almost disgusting. But the fact that I see close friends working on LinkedIn more 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, unhealthy form of online presence that is unlikely to interfere with your work and life. But I am confident about one thing: Many of my friends may be using LinkedIn, but I haven’t found anyone who is proud of it.