Your Dating App Is Probably Not Going to Fix Dating for Women

Here’s some hot tech news about a hot new app with a hot new idea: Bumble is a forthcoming app that appears to be yet another product devoted to creating “a safe and respectful community” for single women looking to find love. They’re working to weed out the charming boneheads who frequent the dating apps you’re already using. The trouble is, they’re lying, to you and to themselves.

Bumble hasn’t launched yet, but it will be, according to TechCrunch, a “direct competitor to Tinder.” It’s also notable because it was created by Whitney Wolfe, a former Tinder employee who sued the company after she was allegedly sexually harassed by CMO Justin Mateen. That lawsuit was settled, but it had far-ranging repercussions for Tinder: Mateen resigned and CEO Sean Rad was demoted.

So it makes sense that Wolfe and a few of her former Tinder employees would branch off to try to create an app that’s got more substance than Tinder (and hopefully an office environment to match). And if they can find success in it, all the best for them! But the premise of apps like Bumble–tagline: “We’re changing the rules of the game”–implies that an app can change humans, the ones who make that game.

Bumble writes:

Bumble is the proper place to meet people. It’s everything you’ve always wanted from a social discovery app with none of the things you don’t. Other apps are full of creepy guys and cheesy pickup lines – but Bumble promotes a safe and respectful community. You’ll never get unwanted messages and Bumble suggests matches based on more relevant signals than other, more shallow apps. So stop wasting time finding tons of dead end matches on other apps and switch to Bumble.

“Other apps are full of creepy guys and cheesy pickup lines”—that’s certainly true. But “You’ll never get unwanted messages”—that’s a bold claim. Never? Just last week, another Bumble-esque app launched called The Grade. The Grade pitched themselves the same way: that they were going to be different than other dating apps, in that women weren’t going to have to deal with annoying, gross and downright offensive messages from dudes.

It’s tempting to believe. Who wouldn’t want to date in an environment that promises only the best? But an app cannot change humans. It can warp our truth, like a photoshopping app changes your face, or hide what we don’t want to see, like Yelp does when you’re looking for just pizza at 3 am. But it cannot promise you a world in which dudes who suck will definitely not bother you. The chance that they will bother you is perhaps less, but if there is any real truth in this world, it is that shitty people will find a way.

The possibility that all these apps have separately created algorithms that will entirely (or almost entirely) block those sub-par humans from your view is very slim. They will all probably benefit from attracting specific types of clientele, the same way that JDate attracts people looking for Jewish people or eHarmony attracts people who are into that old man in the commercials for eHarmony.

But what’s most likely is that they’re all just developing the same kind of methods to block spammers or gross dudes. As an apparent employee of Mesh (a dating app that promises the same protections) wrote last week, they believe that “some staff members from Snap interactive [the company that owns The Grade] have been poking around Mesh a bit for the past few months” to suss out their competition. That kind of behavior is pretty par for the course in the world of tech and even business at large, but it certainly doesn’t indicate that any of these brands has stumbled upon the magic way to get rid of undesirable dudes, however promising it is that they want to do this in the first place.

And that’s because they can’t. It might be the depressing bottom line, but there will always be men (and women) who suck, as much as we try to bring it to their attention that their advances are unwanted and inappropriate. So go ahead: use Bumble when it comes out, or Mesh, or The Grade. It’s all worth a shot. I hope it works out, for them and for you. But don’t expect any of these to be the entirely uplifting experience the creators are selling to you. As no one says but maybe we should start, everyone has to block a couple of frogs before they find their prince.

Image via Bumble

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