Don’t think online dating is for you? Think again.
Whatever your feelings about online dating – you can’t deny the facts. A third of people who got married between 2005 and 2012 met online, while married couples who met online are less likely to get divorced. Those are some pretty powerful statistics – especially in the face of the kind of criticism that often gets lobbied at dating apps. Namely that it’s ‘weird’ meeting someone online; that it’s dangerous to meet strangers you don’t know; that it’s shallow judging people on looks as if it’s a game. Well, unfortunately, men just aren’t asking women out in real life as much anymore, and meeting someone in a bar is just as dangerous or as shallow as on an app.
One person who is doing a lot to change the face of modern dating is Whitney Wolfe, CEO and founder of so-called feminist dating app Bumble. A co-founder of Tinder, Wolfe left the company to set up a very different kind of platform, one that would find solutions for all of the frustrations that users encounter on the infamous hook-up app – the plethora of matches with no conversation; the seemingly endless dick pics; the sense that women still had to ‘wait’ for a man to talk to her first. Keen to foster an environment that was empowering to women, she gave them the power. Within the first 24 hours of matching with someone, the woman has to start the conversation – she has to make the first move.
Bumble is also known for sticking up for its users and stepping in when they think someone has behaved unacceptably on the app: there was a story last year where Bumble banned a man from using the app after being rude to his match. It’s all about online accountability, and taking away that feeling that it isn’t real life, when it is. Like we said, it's a very different dating app.
So who better to ask for dating advice than Wolfe herself? Grazia sat down with the inspiring entrepreneur to get the lowdown on how to make the most of dating apps.
What would you say to people who are scared of online or app dating?
I would say I don’t blame you! However, I would say it's safer than meeting someone at a bar. There is a trail, there is a track, there is a thumbprint… So, if I meet some guy in a bar and no one saw it happen, how can you relay anything? If you go meet up with someone on Bumble and we see that you’re a match, we see that you chose to go meet up with each other, if you don’t like something took place there is accountability, and that’s what we’re trying to build. We’re trying to build online accountability. The best thing in my opinion about the safety dynamics on Bumble is photo verification, (it’s already rolled out on Android and will be on iOS soon), so you know that who you’re speaking to is who they say they are.
How does that work?
So, before you’re shown to people in the queue you actually have to verify yourself. So, Alex, for example, when she logs into her Bumble it will ask her if she wants to take 30 seconds to quickly verify herself. She will take a selfie which is only seen by our moderators and she has to mimic the gesture that the phone shows her. We did a photoshoot in the office one day where the team members made a series of very easy to replicate gestures - we’ve taken into account for disabilities, if someone is not able to hold up certain fingers they have all of those options as well - and they essentially replicate that image and our moderators will review it within 30 seconds and boom you have a verified badge.
What do you think is so important about Bumble’s USP?
I think the main difference is the fact that women, for perhaps the first time in dating history, are in control and that doesn’t just speak to dating apps that actually speaks to society at large. Traditionally speaking in pop culture and anything that has to do with men and women connecting, men are in control. This is the first time it’s really been turned on its head. What I think is amazing is that we are a mainstream app but I can’t name another mainstream product that has been able to act with progression like this - I think that’s what really sets us apart.
A lot of people say that the people on Bumble are of a so-called ‘higher quality’ than other dating apps – better looking, smarter, more respectful – why do you think that is?
Any guy that respects a woman making the first move is a quality guy in my opinion and all the other perks that come with quality follow that. Whatever that may be, it might just be that they are kind and loving and compassionate or it might be some of these more external factors that a lot of women care about. I think you just really see a different group of people and the comparison I have been told is like that of Myspace/Facebook because there is a different approach.
How would you approach starting up a conversation?
I always say put yourself in the other person’s shoes, so if you were to receive this message would you like this message? Life should be about the golden rule, you know, you treat people the way you want to be treated. There’s a reason they teach that to us at age 3, it's very important! Unfortunately, that rule did not really play true in the digital sphere until Bumble. And so, we really like to try and foster that golden rule and so first and foremost be kind and be compassionate to the person you are speaking to and also use some of your personality. Bumble is a place to shine, Bumble is a safe place for you to be you and if you are quirky and you are lyrical and you are outgoing, be that in your opener. If you are quite reserved and shy and really aren’t interested in anything more than just a high exclamation point, go with that, I mean who are we to try and tell you how to do it? All we’re trying to say is we are creating a safe space for you to be yourself.
Matches expire after 24 hours on Bumble: what’s the thinking behind that?
The reasoning is we are trying to create a universe in which you actually behave like a human, and humans need to interact. It’s about connection, it's not about saying “Well, I feel validated because I had this many connections or this many matches” that’s not what it's about. It's about really creating true value. So, if we matched two people we don’t want that to serve as some form of a like on Instagram, we want this to be a true valuable of a connection. Therefore, lets expedite that, let’s actually encourage them to turn it into such.
Are there certain times when you’re more likely to strike up a conversation?
So, funny enough it’s 8am and 8pm – so when people are getting up and winding down. And our busiest, busiest peak time is Sunday evenings. I feel like that’s the time you’re actually forced to be with yourself for a few hours at the end of your weekend. And people who are very interested in constant kind of connection, do get online.
What would you say about other ridiculous dating rules? So, stuff like waiting a certain amount of days to text back?
I say all of that needs to go out the window. You need to be yourself. The phrase that ‘confidence is sexy’ is not a myth, and here’s the thing, you can’t fake it. You cannot feel insecure but assume if you act confident i.e. ignoring someone or playing hard to get – that you’ll come across as in control, it doesn’t translate. Authenticity is the key to confident connecting, so genuinely, if you’re feeling the urge to text someone or talk to them, who are we to tell them no? Go for it, this is your life you get one chance and there’s a difference between saying “It's Tuesday afternoon and I have no one to have dinner with tonight and you know what, I really wanna talk to this match and I really wanna go grab Mexican food with them tonight” text and talk to them. Genuinely, what we’re trying to encourage is people to find their own voice and truly be themselves and go out after what they want, when they want it.
What would you say to somebody that had been ghosted and someone that was thinking of ghosting someone else?
So again, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If this person completely stopped talking to you right now, how would you feel? If you would feel zero remorse or zero problem with it maybe the connection is not that strong and it doesn’t really matter and it's a mutual thing, that’s fine. Rule number one in life, when it comes to Bumble or anything as far as I’m concerned, is just put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you like to have that treatment? And if you can successfully say ‘yes, that doesn’t bother me’ then go for it.
What is the best dating advice you’ve ever been given?
The best dating advice I've ever been given, and I think I actually had to learn this on my own, don’t try to be somebody else because regardless of how long you can keep that up, you’re going to have to eventually be yourself at some point, you might as well do it day one. You cannot try to please people and try to accommodate people when it's not true to yourself. You have to be true to yourself otherwise all you’re doing is postponing the dismay. You also have to be true to your gut and if you sense something is wrong, it’s wrong.
What’s next for Bumble?
Huge things! We ultimately want to be the Facebook for people you don’t know. We want to be the hub of empowered connections and if that means that you meet a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a romance of any kind or an adventure or a business partner, or somebody to go to this party at Coachella with or wherever it is, we wanna connect you in an empowered and safe and confident way.