The XX Factor

In a Year Full of Workplace Sexual Harassment Scandals, Enter Feeld, an App for Office Romance

Your HR professional would really prefer you didn’t use this. Please.


Sexual harassment at work has been a big story in 2017: Allegations of it were at the root of Bill O’Reilly and several top executives’ ousters from Fox News. Uber is conducting an investigation into an ex-employee’s claims about how it affected her at the fast-growing startup. The founder of Thinx is facing allegations as well. And now, into these embattled trenches saunters the matchmaking app Feeld with a bot that wants to help you hook up with your office crush. Can you say mine-feeld?

Feeld recently introduced a feature that lets it work in conjunction with Slack, the chatroom collaboration app favored by tech and media companies, among others. You type your crush in, and if your crush also enters your name, it will tell you if he or she likes you back! Naturally, the bot is already wreaking havoc at places like the Washington Post.

Feeld was born a few years ago as an app for people looking for threesomes. (It had a different name then: 3nder.) After that didn’t work out, the company made a sexy pivot to the burgeoning workplace crush space. You may notice that it retained its old logo, which resembles an erection in progress. Totally workplace appropriate! Sidestepping that issue, Feeld simply advises that users “be nice/don’t be a D” and all will be fine. To be fair, the likelihood of a significant number of people actually using this feature does seem low—as Jezebel pointed out, “Who’s going to tell a freaking Slack bot that they like-like someone they work with and then just sit there and wait for that person to do the same?”

But the Feeld bot’s existence still points to what a crazy time it is to be an employee right now. Slack itself is a relatively new and dicey development in the history of working, one that blurs the boundaries of work and personal life to the point of nonexistence. Workers are obsessed with it, but from an HR perspective, having so many of employee’s communications be permanently saved can’t be ideal, and communicating in a never-ending chatroom inevitably changes the nature of work and communication. Is it any surprise that an app company wanted to capitalize on this, albeit clumsily? We all may be laughing about Feeld, but the fact that a lot of flirtation now takes place via chat and text, and sometimes at work, is indisputable. Slack didn’t officially endorse the integration with Feeld or offer any comment on it, but Slack is a workplace app, and sexual harassment is something that happens at workplaces: This was going to come up eventually.

To be clear, the classic creepy-old-men-in-positions-of-power harassers of the world aren’t going to be using programs like Feeld to bother their co-workers—they don’t seem like the types to embrace the latest in workplace technology when their old-school slobbering is so effective. But for the rest of us, be on alert: Getting Feeld up could be the next frontier in workplace sexual harassment.