A new Lulu user logs in through Facebook, which is used to "ensure" that users really are girls — though I suppose a truly invested young man could create a new Facebook account under a female alias and review himself that way — and to feature guys the user might know in her dashboard. From there, girls can rate exes, brothers, cousins, and friends — all anonymously — using a series of short, multiple-choice quizzes, or enter the name of a crush to see if someone else has already reviewed him. Lulu's FAQ describes its ideal use like this:
If you meet a guy at a party and hit it off, admit it: you're going to Facebook and Google him when you get home. Lulu is the place to do your research. Except we're not going to bore you with whether he's registered to vote. No way. Lulu tells you the stuff you want to know: is he a heartbreaker or your future husband?
Exactly: Who cares if he votes, am I right, ladies? The quizzing system Lulu uses to review guys is decidedly Cosmopolitan, big "C": you'll be asked about his looks, his sense of humor, his predilection toward impressing a girl with flowers, his career prospects, and his ability to commit. (The exact quiz questions vary, but they're generally around these themes.) From a user's answers, Lulu will convert a guy's credentials into numerical scores, 1–10.
After the multiple-choice portion, users can select a number of hashtagged "best" and "worst" things about the guy in question — among "bests" are #BelievesInLove, #AlwaysPays, #Man'sMan, #SweetToMom, #RespectsWomen, and, in damning with faint praise, #NotADick. (Worst qualities include #NoGoals, #LoserFriends, #NoCar, #NapoleonComplex, #CheaperThanABigMac, and #Boring.) To the app's credit, many of the qualities listed appear, rephrased, in both the best and worst lists, acknowledging that many of these qualities have subjective appeal.
But the emphasis on retro, sex-stereotypic ideas about what is and isn't desirable in a guy (and, implicitly, in a girl) is not insignificantly present in Lulu: money, good looks, and provider-masculinity feature prominently among what is supposed to be "best" about a guy.
Lulu is the dating app Lydia and Kitty Bennet would have used had it been available to them at the time.
And maybe it's telling partial truths, or what it thinks are partial truths, given what we humans know we often like in other humans. It's not that wanting these things in a romantic partner is unreasonable, necessarily: It's that seeing the qualities laid bare in hashtag form feels reductive (quite literally) and uncomfortably game-y. It feels like Magic: The Gathering but with boys. But worse.
While online dating breaks down our personalities in this way — via the profiles themselves, but also via the endless quiz questions provided by sites like OkCupid — it (typically) does so more subtly, in a way that (mostly) feels human, or at least a near approximation. It's a next-best thing. But to pare down dating even further, and to put it in smaller and smaller screens, is — so far — to make it functionally simplistic and, at times, crude. Dating apps (given the PR pitches in BuzzFeed's inbox of late) are increasingly popular, but is this really the kind of dating platform people are looking for? Is anyone using this thing for real?
Per the app's U.S. launch press release, creator Alexandra Chong says Lulu is meant "to create a discreet, private space for girls to talk about the most important issues in their lives: their relationships," which, putting aside the loaded assumption about young (straight) girls' most important life purpose, is what I had thought the exact definition of a sleepover was. If there is a real importance in girls sharing whatever it is they've learned about guys and life and humanity with each other — and I think there is! — it's hard to see how it's accomplished by an app that replaces the in-person, joking, nuanced, ACTUAL privacy of girl group bonding with a 1–10 rating system.
There are girls downloading Lulu, and with gusto: After an invitation-only launch held for both Florida State University and the University of Florida, 60,000 female students had the app (available on both iPhone and Android). Over 140,000 reviews have been written so far. The percentage of those reviews that are actually earnest and independently written, though, is impossible to know.
Of those 140,000 reviews, 37 are of Ryan Lochte. (Though the app purports to share information about guys you and your friends actually know, users can review just about anybody with a Facebook page.)
Sorry, make that 38. #CanBuildFires, #SweetThreads.