The world of online dating offers its users a whole new meaning behind the notion of choice. The overwhelming ability to swipe anytime and anywhere to a new pool of potential daters is a double-edged sword: how much are you really willing to invest in a conversation or first date, when there are so many other options quite literally buzzing at your fingertips? With so many choices of applications themselves, what makes Bumble stand out?
Bumble was initially marketed as a feminist app- its unique feature being that a woman using the app must send the first message. Established in lieu of obscene, unsolicited and inappropriate messaging happening on apps predominately from male users to female users, this feature offers a woman the ability to screen and encourage conversation only with men she is actually interested in pursuing. She, for once, is the relationship navigator and instigator, as opposed to the quiet girl at the bar just waiting to be approached. For many, this also made the app feel as if it were a safe space to find a mate as opposed to a degrading message, which is great. However, the implications are that the ability for a woman to start a conversation with and/or ask out a man at all were something to be overcome with a dating app? In 2014? Not so great. Furthermore, this raises the question of how same sex couples could communicate on the app if at all?
There is also the question of legitimacy with online dating. It is mind-blowing that given its prevalence, online dating is often still considered taboo. The irony exists in the fact that online apps use whatever communicative mechanisms are available to mask the fact that they are online apps. How are users supposed to be confident in the new frontier of dating when the apps themselves are hiding the fact that they are online apps?! In reality, the basic function of the app is no different than how an exchange would play out in real life: you are confronted with a person you find attractive and you start a conversation. Of course, there are those who market incorrect information and photos about themselves, and this can be frightening.
Apps such as Bumble do their best to combat false identity by offering their users information about other users by displaying connections. I.e., if you sign up through Facebook, Bumble will alert you of the mutual Facebook friends you share with the face on your screen. For this reason, Bumble users feel safer knowing they are looking at “friends of friends.” It makes them feel legitimate. It also implies that they are already a part of your greater social network, and that better mimics the idea that maybe you would have, someday, by chance, met them in real life.
Because of the variety of dating society encourages, apps follow suit in holding various reputations. Bumble is often understood as being the safe and legitimate dating app for those actually seeking a relationship whereas apps such as tinder have the reputation of the place to find your latest hookup. In short, online dating is just as unclear and trepidatious as dating in real life. There will be ups and downs, amazing first dates and heart breaks.
Whatever app you use for online dating, I urge you to be wary of its rhetoric. If you pay close attention, it is clear that the language used by online dating applications is completely game-oriented. “it’s a match! Start a conversation or Keep playing” If this is your expectation, then great! Keep playing. However, if you are on the app to actually dip your toe into the dating pool to find someone special, exercise caution and make your intentions known from the get go– you don’t want to wade too deep into what you called your greatest romance before your soulmate called you just a friend.