Happy Friday! Or, as we like to say on Solo-ish: Appy Friday. Welcome to an occasional feature, where we will test-drive new dating apps and report back.
A few hours into my first conversation with a man on Bumble — a dating app where, after there’s a match, it’s up to the woman to say hello — I popped the question: “So this is my first Bumble conversation, and I don’t want to bumble it,” I wrote. “Too soon to ask if you’d want to meet up sometime?”
“Not too soon at all!” he replied.
As someone who publicly encourages women to ask men out, I had a hunch that Bumble and I would click.
There are few rules in dating anymore, and for the most part that’s great: Anyone can ask anyone out; there’s no set time you’re supposed to wait from initial hello to “hey, wanna get a drink?” But online, no rules also means people can be rude and crude, dozens of matches never lead to conversations, and conversations often don’t lead to dates.
Bumble is out to do something about all of that. And there are lots of rules: Every user can swipe left or right through Tinder-esque profiles, but once a match is established, female users have 24 hours to send an initial message to her matches. Once she says hello, the countdown clock disappears. Male users can extend one match a day (the equivalent of an online-dating lifeline), but most matches will disappear if the woman doesn’t speak up before the clock ticks down. (For same-sex couples, the 24-hour limit still applies, and either person can send the initial note.)
The app was started by Whitney Wolfe, formerly of Tinder, who sued the company for sexual harassment a year ago. She posits that, when there’s no pressure on men to make that first move, they’re less likely to send nasty or insulting messages to women. “When rejection and pressure are removed,” Wolfe says, “the risk of aggression is reduced greatly.”
Sure, aggressive, angry or inappropriate messages can still pop up when the woman makes the approach, but they do seem less likely on Bumble. In two weeks on the app, I haven’t received anything fit for the infamous @ByeFelipe or @TinderNightmares Instagram feeds.
By putting a time limit on these matches, women don’t have long to linger. “If there is a countdown,” Wolfe says, “you’re not perceived as desperate or forward.”
That’s true, but to a user, it can also be stressful to message matches against a ticking clock. The time limit forces you to decide: Whom do I really want to message? How many dates do I want to schedule?
According to Bumble’s data, about 60 percent of matches result in a conversation. A 37-year-old female Bumble user in San Francisco told me that the time limit helps her clarify whom she really wants to go out with. “If you don’t have enough interest in a person to get it together to send one single message,” she says, “you’re probably not all that interested.” She’s currently seeing someone she met on the app.
A common complaint I encountered while talking with female Bumble users: The men are really hot.
And this is a problem, how?
Lauren, a 27-year-old Washingtonian says she and her friends wondered if the men on the site are catfishing, because they’re almost “too attractive.” (I’ve been on two dates with men off the app and haven’t been catfished yet.)
Based on her Bumble experience, Lauren does have some newfound empathy for men. “I kind of see the challenge for guys” as far as striking up a conversation, she says. “I’ll pass up a lot of matches because I don’t know what to say to this person and I don’t feel like figuring it out.”
But if you are quick with a hello or witty opening line? Our San Francisco user finds that, when she’s the one reaching out first, she’s getting better dates. “I prefer to make the first move,” she says. “The problem I’m trying to solve is: How do I avoid being harassed while I’m looking for a partner?”
For that, Bumble is a good place to start.
On a scale of zero (not a match) to five (soulmate status), Bumble gets a 4.