Somebody Needs To Stop Pickup Artists From Making Dating Apps
Another day, another essentially functionless “dating app” made by a group of two or three young guys who’ve been reading too much Mystery — which, to be quite clear, is any Mystery at all: “On The Rebound” is a new Facebook app — created by Anthony Coombs and Jon Tran — that claims to “analyze” users’ relationship statuses and history to evaluate which among your Facebook friends are, per the name, “on the rebound.”
With around 3,000 users in its first few days, “On The Rebound” is, perhaps, the rabid mouse to Bang With Friends’, let’s say, rat king: It’s not quite as sickly ambitious or brazenly delusional — it doesn’t assume that ALL of your Facebook friends might be lusting after you and would totally do you if only you’d present them with the right app to announce it, and a disclaimer at the bottom of its page reads “[This app] will not help you get laid” — but it still belongs to the same gross family.
After you’ve logged into “On The Rebound” and specified whether you’re interested in creeping on men or women (you can’t have both!), the app shows you a handful of friends — the quantity depends on your own set of Facebook friends — with the highest “rebound ratings,” or presumed readiness to date/hook up. To arrive at these ratings, the app collects information about users’ past relationship statuses, how long they were maintained, and how long it’s been since they were changed to “single.” A rating of 100 means that the user in question is “on the rebound” and ready, I guess, for you. (In the “Our Advice” box adjacent to that particular rating, the text reads: “He’s ready. He’s been ready. C’mon now! You are so obviously the one for him!”)
Of course, for the app to even SORT of work, users would need to be completely forthcoming with their relationship statuses, which many Facebook users don’t always do, or even use at all. Like “Bang With Friends” and other apps in this vein, “On The Rebound” reflects a widely held, oversimplified, and often mistaken belief that Facebook knows everything about us, like a diary stand-in. But that’s not really true for most of us: Facebook is an outline, not a complete picture.
So apps like these tend not to “work” — not in any practical sense, at least — at all.
Consider the six guys I’m presented with: a friend in a six-year (but unlisted on Facebook) relationship, my best friend’s 21-year-old little brother, a gay guy I used to intern with, and three old friends from college — all of whom don’t have prior relationships listed on Facebook, and all of whom “On The Rebound” weirdly describes as “still in love with his ex or he’s not looking for anything serious at all.” I guess I can say that’s true enough for one of them, but how, in general, do the app’s designers arrive at their ratings and justifications in the absence of concrete relationship status changes?
According to one of the app’s creators, Anthony Coombs, who spoke with BuzzFeed by email, this type of vague language usually indicates nothing more than an absence of information. “The results’ accuracy depends directly on how much data we can get,” he writes. “If we couldn’t get the [relationship] data through Facebook, then we had to base everything on just their age (stage in life), gender, and number of single female-male friends.” In those cases, he admits, the results are “far less accurate.”
It’s worth noting that the “advice” for users interested in “chicks” is more than a little reminiscent of predatory, opportunistic PUA-type language: for example, for girls to which the app gives more middling “rebound” ratings, the accompanying advice reads, “Her loneliness is your best attribute.” (While one piece of advice for guys reads, “He’s probably a little emotional right now… Perfect!” most of the advice boxes for guys err on the side of granting them independence — i.e., “Don’t go rushing into it if you want something serious.” — rather than projecting desperation onto them.) Or, to put it in one of those simple, easy-to-remember formulas like all good pickup artists love, “Loneliness + Desperation = Opportunity.”
It’s no surprise that the app’s creators earnestly link out to the Amazon page for PUA Bible (and tell-all) The Game by Neil Strauss. The app (and others like it) belies a view that people (and especially girls and women) are basically exchangeable — and dating, more than anything else, is about opportunity and taking advantage.
Anthony Coombs sums up that kind of thinking pretty well: “[The idea for the app] started when I missed out on dating a girl after her boyfriend had broken up with her. Like a nice (dumb) guy I waited to ask her out, thinking she needed time to heal. Instead she hooked up with a friend of mine a week later and they’ve been together since!”
It’s meant in fun, of course, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t saying something interesting, whether the creators intend it to or not. Apps like “On The Rebound” and “Bang With Friends” are probably, in the end, more useful for revealing a certain Straussian-type of mind-set toward women and dating than they are in actually bringing any rebounds (or bangs, as it were) together.
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