Words by Bruna Nessif. Photo by Kristen Kilpatrick.
There seems to be a dating app for any and every demographic imaginable. But with over 50 million users, Bumble — which helped reconstruct traditional stereotypes by having women make the first move — remains to be one of the top choices by singles who swipe.
While the four-year-old, female-focused company faced some skepticism in its early stages due to its unconventional approach, Bumble has proved that throwing out the archaic rule book when it comes to dating can lead to lasting advantages and interesting observations about our romantic interactions.
ILY had the opportunity to speak with Bumble’s Chief Brand Officer Alex Williamson about the transformative impacts the company has made when it comes to modern romance, and discuss how we can create more change, individually, to benefit dating in the digital age.
How do you feel that Bumble has contributed to the evolution of dating?
We are in the 950,000-plus times that women have made the first move on Bumble in relationships, and we were told that would never happen, because they would come across as desperate or crazy or all of these misogynistic phrases. We’ve been able to really break that down and say that women can go after what they want, and there’s no shame in it. What’s been so incredible to witness is that women are gaining more confidence. And it’s the first time that men have been able to relax and feel like they don’t have to be so aggressive. We’ve been able to basically let everybody take a breath and date the way that they want to. Be whoever you want to be, go after what you want, and feel confident and empowered in that.
I love that. I always used to make the first move, and I was fine with it, because why wouldn’t I, right?
And society tells you you can’t.
Right. I actually talked to my guy friends when Bumble first came out and they were like, “This is the best.”
They’re always so stressed about, “Oh no, we gotta make the first move all the time, and now we can sit back.”
Isn’t that an interesting perspective and way to explain feminism? It’s not trying to put women above men, we’re just trying to make the world a more equal place where people feel free.
On that note, do you feel that there are any other outdated dating standards that we’d do better without?
Totally. The man has to propose. We could totally do without that, and that the man has to pay. I do think that if you suggest going on the date, and you suggest the place, you should be willing to pay. So don’t suggest a place outside your means. I think that that’s a really important way to navigate the rule of who pays and who doesn’t.
One of the greatest ways that you can provide yourself love is to define and determine your boundaries and uphold them.Alex Williamson
Ageism is something that we could let go of. I personally would love to see us be able to destigmatize divorce. I think divorce is actually a badge of courage, and it takes a lot to walk away. Divorce should be something that we honor and celebrate as a society instead of making people feel ashamed about it.
Even the concept of a man being able to sleep around and a woman not being able to is unfair … It’s just not right. You should be able to do whatever you want in your life as long as you’re not hurting anybody else, you feel no shame, and you walk away feeling confident in yourself.
What do you have to say to people who blame dating apps for the downfall of dating and the rise of hookup culture?
Well, I can say that 85% of our users are actually looking for meaningful relationships. People are wanting to find a partner. It’s not that we’re trying to create hookup culture or end dating, it’s actually that we’re trying to create accessibility to meeting new people that you wouldn’t have the chance to meet otherwise. As a society, we’re busier than we’ve ever been. When we’re out in public, we’re not looking up. Nobody’s looking up. We’re all on our phones anyway, so you could be missing an opportunity to meet somebody walking down the street or in a coffee shop or wherever you are. So, why not find them on your phone?
Dating really should be an exploration of yourself.Alex Williamson
Also, dating apps give you the ability to connect to people in different communities from different cultures and backgrounds that you would never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Dating really should be an exploration of yourself, and what better way than to meet more people and see who you connect with?
What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about love?
One of the greatest ways that you can provide yourself love is to define and determine your boundaries and uphold them. I think that love can be unconventional, and you don’t have to follow a rule book. Throw society’s constructs and beliefs out the window and go for what makes you feel good.
The only guarantee in life is that you’re with you, so you better love you.Alex Williamson
Here’s the most obvious and best lesson that I’ve learned about love: you cannot love another person until you love yourself fully — with that comes boundaries, the ability to create intention, and learning the lessons that you need in another relationship. What I think is so beautiful about relationships is that they reflect a mirror back at yourself. If you’re willing to do the work that you need to do when you see everything about yourself, it’s the greatest learning experience that you can possibly have. It’s all truly a journey to self-love. Because at the end of the day, the only guarantee in life is that you’re with you, so you better love you.