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LinkedIn’s “wholesome” vibe could be making it popular with teens

Kristin Schwab and Sean McHenry Oct 18, 2023
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"I got responses from, like, 65 teenagers," says journalist Anya Kamenetz. "And I just was so surprised to see LinkedIn coming up again and again." S3studio/Getty Images

LinkedIn’s “wholesome” vibe could be making it popular with teens

Kristin Schwab and Sean McHenry Oct 18, 2023
Heard on:
"I got responses from, like, 65 teenagers," says journalist Anya Kamenetz. "And I just was so surprised to see LinkedIn coming up again and again." S3studio/Getty Images
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Among the social media apps, LinkedIn might seem a bit stodgy — a place to look for jobs or update your resume, but not necessarily much else. Yet that stodginess might be what appeals to one of the platform’s fastest-growing audiences: teens.

“I did a survey where I got responses from, like, 65 teenagers,” said journalist Anya Kamenetz. “And I just was so surprised to see LinkedIn coming up again and again.”

Kamenetz wrote about what, exactly, teens see in LinkedIn for The Cut, and she spoke to “Marketplace” host Kristin Schwab about her reporting. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kristin Schwab: So I’m in no way an arbiter of social media, but I think the last time I updated my LinkedIn was when I got this job. Why are teens so interested in it?

Anya Kamenetz: I did a broader survey where I got responses from, like, 65 teenagers, and I just was so surprised to see LinkedIn coming up again and again. And it’s definitely a minority of teenagers, but the ones that are on it told me that they, first of all, they find LinkedIn really useful. You know, those who are, like, going for internships or they’re thinking about careers, this is a great way to find out about it. And secondly, they really like the tone on LinkedIn.

Schwab: What about the tone? You talk about it being wholesome.

Kamenetz: Wholesome. And “wholesome” is such a Gen Z word, right? I asked one of the teenagers about the fact that LinkedIn only has positive reactions to posts. You cannot post “dislike,” you can only post “like,” “celebrate.” And he was like, yeah, that’s how social media should be, you know, we should be helping each other out and supporting each other. And that’s what LinkedIn is.

Schwab: But, I mean, there are still risks to being on a platform like LinkedIn as an adolescent.

Kamenetz: Yeah, I mean, I think that parents and teens and schools all share the perception that LinkedIn is pretty safe because everybody has their own real name and their own real employer. And I think that’s a pretty fair perception, but I did collect a couple of stories of grown men who think it’s fine to hit on younger women or just reach out to them in a weird way. But the teenagers I talked to said, you know, I just, I mute messages like that, I move them to the Other category if I don’t want to see them, and that’s pretty much it.

Schwab: Yeah. Smart teenagers.

Kamenetz: Yeah.

Schwab: So what are they actually using LinkedIn for at such a young age?

Kamenetz: So Nora, she’s a first-year student at Yale, she joined LinkedIn at 16. And she said, you know, I’m not stalking my parents’ coworkers, I’m actually staying up to date with topics that I’m interested in, like [artificial intelligence]. Someone else I talked to, Zachary, said, you know, I’m looking for internships and jobs, and this is the best place to find them. There’s so many opportunities that I would never have known about if I wasn’t on LinkedIn.

Schwab: You know, in the story, you talk about how teens are viewing college and careers a little differently. What do you think LinkedIn’s popularity says about how they feel about those things?

Kamenetz: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the note of caution that was sounded by some of the parents I talked to is that, you know, it’s a lot of pressure at 15 years old to think that you should be building your resume and thinking about future careers. But because there’s been kind of a crash in faith in the value of college, you know, the number of Gen Zers who really believe that college is worth it has really gone down the last few years. So they’re kind of looking ahead, and they’re like, I might be in 10th grade, but I have to think about my resume. And, you know, that’s a little bit sad.

Schwab: That makes me want to ask, are you a parent?

Kamenetz: I am, yeah. I have two kids. Neither of them are on social media.

Schwab: OK. Well, I don’t know when they would join the social media club or how old they are, but how do you feel about them possibly joining an online life that includes resumes and networking so young?

Kamenetz: I mean, I think there’s a balance to everything. But the real key thing is the difference between following your interests and thinking about, you know, things that are potentially your future, which I think is great. And then the kind of, like, sweaty resume building. Thinking you have to, like, fill up your schedule with extracurriculars that I recall as an overachieving teen that I really don’t want my kids to fully absorb.

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