If you were going to rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10, what rating would you get? A 5.7? A 7.8? A 4.2, if you’re bloated from eating too much at dinner last night? A 9.9, if you’re feeling extra confident today?
Well, if you’re a guy, have no fear — the mobile app Lulu will do all the self-quantifying work for you. Lulu launched in 2011 — the magnum opus of Alexandra Chong, a British tennis pro turned media pro. Since then, the app has remained relatively obscure until the past year or two, and it just continues to grow as more and more people (unfortunately) find out about it.
Lulu connects to user Facebook accounts, aggregating information from their profiles and friend lists. The app allows female users to anonymously “review” their male friends — Facebook or otherwise — with a series of surveys that ask about anything from their personality to their sense of comedic timing to their skills (or lack thereof) in the sack. Depending on the answers, Lulu will then assign a numerical rating and accompanying hashtags (notable ones include #sketchycalllog, #localceleb, and #cheaperthanaBigMac among others) to the piece of man-candy in question. The overall rating is an average, derived from individual reviews.
Until recently, men could not access the app, which requires that users have a valid Facebook account to login. An update in February gave male users the ability to log in with their Facebook accounts and view the scores on their profiles. The most recent update in May granted them the privilege of receiving personalized analytic information — so they can, y’know, up their game if need be.
Male users not only view their scores and hashtags but they can now also see how many women searched for them, how they stack up against other guys in their own Facebook friend lists, and how many people added them to their favorites.
A friend first showed me Lulu on her phone a few months ago. I’d mentioned being interested in a guy in one of my classes, who I didn’t know very well, and I had asked her if she thought it would be a good idea for me to take him to a date function for my sorority.
“Hold on. We can check,” she said, whipping out her phone and turning the screen so that I could see.
A few seconds later, she’d pulled up his Lulu profile, and together, we scrolled through his 13 reviews and 80 or so hashtags — which suggested that his #bedroomeyes may have been a 10 but his personality was not quite up to par.
In the end, I took someone else to my date function, but per that friend’s recommendation, I also downloaded Lulu on my own phone — just, uh, in case I ever needed to use it. To make myself feel better, I never reviewed anyone — despite Lulu’s promise of anonymity for its users, I was paranoid. From time to time, I would mindlessly browse profiles. No more. Another of Lulu’s features is that it filters profiles by city or university — which means that you don’t necessarily have to be Facebook friends with someone to review him or to look at his ratings. The potential for creeping is infinite!
However, it was after a recent conversation I had with a male friend, who had just discovered his own Lulu profile, that I finally decided to get rid of the app. Regardless of how much or how little I used it, keeping Lulu on my phone was supporting an enterprise that I realized was, well, disgusting.
“Steph, how am I only a 6.7?” he asked, waving his phone semi-hysterically at me. “Do you think I’m only a 6.7?”
I tried to calm him down but to no avail. “I mean, that’s not so bad…I saw someone on there the other day who was only a 4.1.”
“And… and five girls ‘reviewed’ me in the last two months?” he added. “I’ve been hanging out with the same girl all semester! How do they know what they’re talking about?”
I assured my friend that he was overreacting, that no one cared about his Lulu score, and that, anyways, the app provided a terrible reflection of who he actually was. As soon as I got home that night, I removed the app from my phone — feeling, as I should, like a slightly worse human being for having used it.
On its website, Lulu claims to “provide a private network for women to share their experiences and get information to make smarter decisions.” While its mission statement seems altruistic in theory, there are more than a few practical problems involved.
When Lulu initially gained prominence, enthusiasts called it the “Yelp for reviewing men.” While this is a cute perspective on the concept, it fails to consider that men — that humans — are on a level different from sushi restaurants, sports bars, or wing joints. You can’t slap a numerical rating on them and expect that to provide any real insight into their personality, intellect, or any other aspect of their being that should matter. One girl’s 8.6 is another girl’s 4.5. And one bitter, bitter ex’s 1.7 should not inform any romantic decisions you hope to make.
Let’s also talk about the hashtags for a hot second.
These babies run the gamut from the playful and entertaining — #cleanbathroom, #MrDarcy, or #CaptainFun — to the cruel and offensive — #50ShadesofF**ckedUp, #TotalF**kingDickhead, or #CampusCreeper. What may have started out as a tool to empower love-hungry women can quickly deteriorate into nothing more than cyber-bullying. Anonymously categorizing someone as #50ShadesofF**kedUp or anything of the like is the tech-savvy 20-something gal’s equivalent of leaving nasty notes in someone’s Honesty Box (anyone remember that lovely Facebook app of yore?) or writing mean comments about someone on College ACB. Grow up, folks.
What’s more, the latest Lulu update now allows male users to add hashtags to their own profiles, even offering a section where they can hashtag their turn-ons and turn-offs — “what fuels their rocket” in Lulu-speak. They can also add photos and hashtag a relationship status if they so choose, surely giving the women who review them a more complete sense of who they are! At least Lulu now enables men to vet for themselves — though I’m not sure if that’s a positive change or just pathetic.
Lastly, I’d a hedge a bet that Lulu’s primary user demographic would be mortified if an app came out that allowed men to review women in a similar fashion — especially if their ratings were lower than desired or anyone hashtagged them something like #Stage5Clinger. Let’s not lie to ourselves: critics would label that hypothetical app as misogynistic, anti-feminist, or what-have-you from its conception. The number of think pieces passionately bashing it would be great enough to break the Internet. Bloggers all across the land would have a field day pointing out every reason why that app would catalyze the deterioration of humanity. Women everywhere — especially those with active dating lives — would be in a furor at the idea that men could objectify them into mere numbers and hashtags like that!
When thinking about this app and its unsavory possibilities, it’s important to remember that old truism your elementary school teachers used to tell you: if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out to someone else. Especially in a public forum.
So, listen, if you’ve got Lulu, delete it.
The app is pointless at best and hurtful at worst. If you haven’t downloaded Lulu yet, save yourself the time and energy to check out something more worthy of your phone’s battery life. Like 2048.