I am a millennial. That means the majority of my friends either have babies or jobs where they spend most of their day at a computer. These are not lives that translate easily onto visual platforms like TikTok or Instagram. If I open Instagram today, my feed is clogged with ads and posts by brands I no longer like and musicians I barely listen to (sorry, Dua Lipa).
LinkedIn, however, feels like the last vestige of the centralized internet of the 2010s. For people who grew up using Bebo, Myspace, and Facebook, the way LinkedIn serves you text and images on a single newsfeed feels comfortable and familiar. I still use messaging apps like everybody else. But while groups on WhatsApp and Signal require active engagement, LinkedIn still allows you to passively scroll.
If Facebook’s problem was that too many people joined, making the newsfeed feel jarring (does anyone need their ex-boyfriend’s latest updates to feature alongside their aunt’s?), Twitter’s 250 million user base was too niche. To me, Twitter is a social media silo; it’s where I interact with people I mostly meet through work. It feels like a whole chunk of my life, my life outside work, is missing.
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 pursuit of readers, I joined them. Then something weird happened. Those interacting with my posts were not just people I knew through work. They were school friends, university mates, people I’d known for decades. If I shared good news on LinkedIn, friends would congratulate me in-person that weekend. Suddenly, I was facing the prospect that a “professional network” was achieving what Twitter never had. It was merging my work life and my social life. LinkedIn was becoming a one-stop social media site.
That doesn’t mean everyone using LinkedIn is enjoying themselves. Even the friends I see there most describe their participation as begrudging. They say they enjoy seeing their friends’ updates on the site but are on LinkedIn mainly for their career. “Work encourages us to use it and I guess 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 would not describe herself as an addict. “Give me dog videos on Instagram any day.”
LinkedIn declined to tell me whether it had or had not seen a spike in use since Elon Musk took over Twitter. As an alternative, the platform might not be perfect either. If people’s problem with Twitter is that it’s run by the world’s richest man, maybe switching allegiances to a platform owned by Microsoft—a business founded by the world’s fifth richest man, Bill Gates—wouldn’t make sense. The 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 a month.
But within my group of friends at least, LinkedIn is finding new relevance, even if talking about it feels wrong, almost taboo. But the fact that I see more close friends active on LinkedIn than on any other platform shows how the social media industry is fragmenting. LinkedIn’s rise could signal the death of social media as we know it or the start of a new, unhealthy type of online presence where it’s impossible to disentangle work from your social life. But I am confident of one thing: A lot of my friends might be using LinkedIn, but I am yet to find one who’s proud of it.