Dec 30, 2013

Lulu: Crashing Your Shares of Love

crashing stock ticker superimposed over valentines heart

According to its website, Lulu is the "first-ever app for girls" and "a private network for girls to share insights on love and life." My understanding of Lulu is that it is an app designed exclusively for heterosexual females to select pre-written, less-than-insightful hashtags and apply them exclusively to males, presumably also heterosexual, whom the female is either friends with or related to, or wants/has tried to bang, or has banged. [I'm writing like an immature moron on purpose. You'll see.]

The question thus becomes: if Lulu isn't exactly the new face of "grrrl power" what is it? And what does it mean for all of us?

screenshot of who has left Lulu reviews for Tyler Coe

Up front: I think this app is ridiculous. Shallow, misrepresentative of both genders, potentially hurtful, divisive, invasive, and entirely inevitable. When first introduced to this app, maybe a year ago, I thought it was a pretty good idea. It still is a good idea, as a matter of fact, but Lulu itself is a poor execution of concept. That every individual will someday have a Yelp rating is inevitable and, if Lulu is any indication, becoming a reality sooner than we may have expected.

Consider: Social Networking's birth of "The Selfie" transformed Social "Networking" into Social "Media" and made every person the star of their own reality show. Now: Google Glass is one step away from placing a Social Media filter between us and everything/everyone we see in our day-to-day existence. The full scope of this is impossible to realize at present but certain conclusions draw themselves. Obviously there exists the type of person who can't wait to get home and Facebook/Twitter/Instagram stalk the potential love interest they just met, yeah? Well, soon they won't have to wait to get home.

average score on Lulu for Tyler Coe

If Lulu is the platform with which we make the transition into such a world... I can't even finish that sentence. It's unthinkable. Let's back up to something with which we're already familiar, Yelp. Yelp isn't perfect but one thing it has going for it is people are writing their own reviews, in their own voice, telling us maybe more about themselves than they realize. For instance, go look up your favorite restaurant on Yelp and read the negative reviews. How many are imbued with disgusting levels of entitlement? Do you get the sense that the people writing many of these rants are generally dissatisfied with their own lives and projecting that out into the world? Maybe this isn't the person you want to be stuck talking to at the office New Year's Eve party? Lulu is missing that element by which we can intuit the personality of our reviewers, removing each woman's individual voice and replacing it with that of a thirteen year-old girl who has the vocabulary, sexual experience, and maturity of the author of 50 Shades of Grey. ["His pointer finger circled my puckered love cave"? Really, lady? Is that what happened?]

Lulu hashtags assigned to Tyler Coe

Right now you might be wondering how I know so much about Lulu and am able to post these screenshots of my reviews, since dudes aren't supposed to be able to see behind the curtain. [I'll address the wrongheadedness of that later.] The answer is simple: I have a spy. *GASP*

A traitor to her gender!

Well... Not really. I'm not the only one who thinks Lulu is shameful. Personally, since I am a man in a happy relationship, Lulu doesn't affect my day-to-day life as an individual in society. But just because I'm not a terrorist doesn't mean I'm cool with the NSA recording all of my personal communications, as it's that principle of allowance which sets the precedent for more invasive things to follow. [If you happened to hear something unfamiliar while reading that last sentence it was probably the sound of this blog being red-flagged on to a watch list.] But if I were a woman, Lulu would irk me to no end. Lulu reduces a woman's full range of expressing herself down to pithy "hashtag" speak, turning every female into the kind of person who says "LOL," out loud, with their mouth, in a conversation, with a real-live person. It's horrible and inaccurate to my daily experience of conversation with women.

Lulu hashtags assigned to Tyler Coe

I refuse to believe that this is the way women older than fourteen talk to each other in private. I don't have a clue what half of these hashtags are supposed to mean (and I guess I'm not supposed to even be seeing them) but, from what I can surmise, the priorities of this theoretical Lulu Woman are disappointing, disturbing, and, sometimes, downright weird. I don't grow my own vegetables and if that's some kind of euphemism then it's beyond me. "#Giving..." is a pretty harmless example of the double-entendre many of Lulu's hashtags employ. A more offensive example seen in a different review: #BigFeet. One imagines that the opposite of that hashtag also exists, which goes beyond casual invasion of privacy into the territory of cruelty and sexual harassment. This isn't constructive, at all. This isn't helping anyone's love life. Nobody is being done a service here. [This article attempts to avoid leaning heavily upon the obvious "this is sexist" argument against Lulu. That argument only furthers the us-versus-them mentality running rampant in discussions of the app. However, just imagine for a minute that there existed an app like this for men to discuss women. Now imagine there was a way to use this app to imply that a woman had a more-spacious-than-usual "love cave." #SuitableForSpelunking, it might read. A high school boy uses the app to say this about a female classmate and stigmatize her for the rest of her high school career, etc.] Maybe it's fortunate, then, that, without a spy, this is the entirety of what a man can see of his standing on Lulu:

screenshot of what a guy can see about himself on Lulu

I can see that seven girls have looked at my profile today, 17k have looked at it ever and fifteen of those have favorited me, whatever that means. I'm not being given much information, then, am I? This is unfortunate and the main failing of Lulu as a service to men and women. I can't see what my overall rating is, what I'm doing right/wrong, or how I could improve to be a better person/lover/boyfriend. Any business that doesn't pay attention to its negative reviews on Yelp is doomed to failure. If Lulu aspires to be the Yelp of dating, they would do well to stick closer to the model. Lulu should do the obviously intelligent thing: drop the gender exclusivity [solving the bias towards heterosexuals and doubling their clientele in the process] and let users express their own thoughts and experiences. However, I don't hold out much hope for that, as I've tried to converse with Lulu about some of this:

screenshot of Tyler Coe's attempt to contact Lulu

I received no response from the Lulu team. [At least they didn't respond to me with a message composed entirely of hashtags?] Maybe they're just busy, working hard to address all of the shortcomings of their app. Maybe not. What's important is that someone will make the app that Lulu could have been, so you'd better stop acting like a jerk and be nice or no one will want to play with you.

Thank you for your time. Are there any questions?



  1. I found this article after you favorited one of my tweets about LuLu. Trust me, women know how shallow this app is. I am college educated, in a relationship, and Lulu still makes me laugh. I think it would be beneficial if women could use their own words, as I hate the hastag system. But like I said in my tweet, it makes me giggle when one of my male friends has a low score. I also show them the app if they ask, as I hope they'd show me if men had a similar app for women (imagine the double standard outrage!). Also, when I decide to rate a guy, I am as honest as I can be with the dumb hashtags I'm given. Surprisingly, there's no opposite hashtag for "big feet," and some of us don't know what the hashtags mean, either! "Plays didgeridoo" is a hashtag option. If you have insight, I'd be happy to listen. Hope this helps!

    1. I imagine #PlaysDidgeridoo simply means "is a hippie."

      It's great that you are honest when you use the app to review men. It's obvious though that a large majority of women won't be, whether their intentions are benevolent or not. In reading Tweets on the subject I learned that a lot of women/girls give all their guy friends perfect reviews to "help them out," whether deserved or not. If Lulu wasn't tied exclusively to the hashtag system, this wouldn't be a problem, as the motive behind the review would be just as plain as a scorned reviewer, etc.

      It's easy to say the app is not meant to be taken seriously. I believe that time and technology will show that this concept is headed in a direction that will alter the reality of dating. Lulu was recently introduced in Brazil where it immediately became the #1 downloaded app. Social media laws in Brazil aren't yet set in stone, so the resulting batch of lawsuits from men claiming libel based upon negative Lulu reviews shut the app down in that country.