Dating apps are like Starbucks. We use them because they’re convenient. Too convenient. Sure you could get a better cup of coffee, expertly poured by a hunky hipster at a quainter coffee shop in a hipper neighborhood, but maybe you just don’t have the time. You’re a modern-minded boss lady with schedule that’s tighter than a Kardashian’s forehead; you’ve got names to take and asses to kick. And with a Starbucks on every corner, it’s hard to resist the allure of the Green Mermaid when a caffeine craving beckons, even if the quality of the brew is… subpar.
Not to get all heteronormative, but the sheer convenience of mobile dating seems to favor the intentions of a less than favorable type of man. Even if you’re not looking to put a ring on it, these apps don’t do much to protect your heart, let alone your standards. This isn’t anything super revelatory, and developers have been responding with a crop of allegedly female-friendly apps that are meant to be jerk retardant. The problem is, they’re not delivering on their promise, and here’s why:
Back in 2014, Whitney Wolfe and a team of ex-Tinder employees, unleashed Bumble on the App Store. Wolfe had previously sued Tinder and it’s parent company IAC, alleging that Tinder co-founders, Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, had sexually harassed her. One would be remiss not to give some major props to the woman who got treated poorly, fought back, and built an app dedicated to empowering women. The intention is sound, but in practice it doesn’t necessarily play out that way.
Bumble looks and feels a lot like Tinder. The only difference is that when you match, the girl has to initiate the conversation within 24 hours. And while this function may protect women from having to deal with any unwanted solicitation from potential suitors, Tinder allows you to delete and even block matches you’re no longer feeling, so what’s really the difference here?
the sheer convenience of mobile dating seems to favor the intentions of a less than favorable type of man
In fact, I’d argue that it’s precisely this function that favors the interests of male users. Haven’t we made it easy enough, ladies? We’ve literally made ourselves available at the swipe of a finger, the least men could do is text us first. And from a male perspective, all this function does is assure him that you’re interested, adding another level of convenience for him. He has just that much less work to do to get in your good graces. Is that really the kind of guy you want to date?
Lulu was a lemon
When Lulu launched in 2014, it wasn’t a dating app in the traditional sense. Rather, it enabled women to share anonymous reviews of the men they knew. Think Yelp, but for dating. Sound too good to be true? It was.
To circumvent what was probably a legal nightmare, the app only allowed you to describe men through a set of predetermined cheeky hashtags like #TallDarkAndHandsome or #MakesTheBed. And somehow, the app used these hashtags to deliver a numerical rating on a scale of 1 to 10. Convenient, certainly. Accurate, not so much.
Don’t believe me? I’d tell you to try it for yourself, but it’s too late. Earlier this year, UK-based dating platform Badoo acquired Lulu and repackaged it as a conventional dating app, which meant doing away with the all the (semi-legitimate) intel about the men on it.
Dating apps: 1. Women: 0.
Blazing the trail with Wyldfire?
Also founded in 2014, Wyldfire is an app that men can only join by invitation from a female user. While it’s the closest thing the Internet offers to getting set up by a friend, ask yourself, how many idiots have your closest friends (even the moderate drinkers with perfect SAT scores) dated? It’s a seemingly quick fix, but it’s by no means foolproof (or player-proof, as it were).
An Inconvenient Truth
The relative failures of these apps suggest that in order create a female-friendly mobile dating experience, you might have to find a way to minimize or do away with the very thing that makes mobile dating attractive in the first place: convenience. Whether it’s the design of the app or the type of interaction it facilitates, we’re making it too easy. And when you think about it, if relationships are rarely about convenience, why should dating be?