The year was 2015. Obama was President, and I was single for the first time in a long time. I heard from my friend, who was way cooler than me, that there was this online dating site called Bumble that I simply had to try. “It gives the power back to the women,” she told me, eyes gleaming. My ears and demeanor perked up immediately at the mention of the words “power” and “women” in the same sentence; it was like I was hearing a language I’d never heard before, a language for which I longed, and it was beautiful. Women having power? I gasped. Could it be possible?
Intrigued, I researched this Bumble of which she spoke. At first glance, the app seemed like many other dating apps readily available. You swiped right or left depending on whether you were interested in the person plastered on the screen in front of you. If you both happily swiped right, the “I’m into you” way, you connected. Boom! Now, here came the part where the app differed from others. For a heterosexual relationship, once you connected, the woman was the only one who had 24 hours to reach out with a message to the man. If the woman chose to send him a message, only then could the man respond, having 24 hours in which to do so. If both she and he managed to do that, and start talking within 48 hours, the connection was magically permanently “unlocked,” and the couple was free to message each other into eternity, ‘til death do you part, amen!
To say I was pleased to hear this female-empowering innovative site would be an available dating tool would be an understatement. Bumble essentially changed the online dating game. At least on this site, no longer would society be stuck behind the “man has to make the first move” ideology, because it would be impossible. Bumble was Pro-Women! Bumble was the future! I signed up, chose three pictures my friends insisted were flattering, and prepared my trusty thumb for swiping.
For the next three months, I swiped right if I was attracted to a guy’s pictures, profile, or both. I only swiped right if I was interested. I connected with a little over half of the men on whom I swiped right. I selectively messaged a handful of men after I connected with them, a few of which I didn’t hear from, but the vast majority giving a response. Most of the men with whom I had a conversation, I ended up going out with. Bumble seemed to be working. I wasn’t flooded with “Hey baby girl” and “You up?” nearly as much as other sites. It was appealing in that it seemed serious, and yet still sexy. I was sold.
Then, I met someone. Flash forward through a relationship, a breakup, and healing time.
The year is 2017. Trump is President, my friend’s married, and I am once again eating a burrito alone on a couch watching Fraiser. I pulled out my old friend Bumble about a month ago, trying to urge myself to selectively swipe my way to happily ever after. At first glance, it had seemed like not much had changed with the app or its interface. But over the next few weeks, I noticed something. I noticed that, while I was very selective with whom I swiped right on, almost everyone I did swipe right on connected with me. Boom! And then, when I messaged them, almost none of them got back to me. Unboom!
I spoke some with my girlfriends who were on Bumble to corroborate my experience. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t the anomaly in the situation, messaging men in some sort of creepy way which terrified them. But no, they all agreed to similar experiences. They, too, as of late had messaged men far more than they heard back. One friend even explained to me, “Basically, women have to message men, and then men go through the messages and pick which women they want to get back to.” My other girlfriends all agreed. It seemed that Bumble had become a Tinder-hybrid for men, a swipe-tastic way to say yes to all, and then be selective. The men had the power. At least, they had more power than before.
Why, when Bumble’s conceit was the same, did the way we functioned socially within it change? Attention all graduate students: thesis topic available! Could it be that Bumble’s initial swing at progression was too big of a societal change for a world rooted in centuries of male dominance to maintain? I’m not claiming to know the answers, but do feel assured that progress has been made with Bumble’s invention, regardless if there’s been a slight backswing from the original “Go Women!” glory. The road to progress isn’t always perfect, but it’s better to be on the road, swiping towards something better, than off.