Do You Want to Read About Your Dates In Advance? What If They Read About You?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could read up on the new guy you’ve been writing to online BEFORE you met him? Right now, you can go to Facebook or Google to gather as much information about him as possible, but wouldn’t it be more telling to hear what other women have to say about him?

People have been trying to crack this idea for years. E Jean Carroll and Cande Carroll started GreatBoyfriends.com for ex-girlfriends to post dating profiles about their nice, but incompatible ex’s. Stephany Alexander started WomanSavers, creating even more paranoia about the perils of cheating men. Don’tDateHimGirl pretty much did what its URL suggested.

I believe in leading with trust instead of fear, and dating the way people dated years ago, with a slower courtship that reveals information organically over time.

While all of these sites served a purpose, none of them caught fire. But then again, none of them came with their own app. Enter Lulu, a new, free, female-friendly social networking app that lets women anonymously review men who are their Facebook friends.

“On Lulu, women can rate men in categories — ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score.”

This is a clever and catchy idea, one that I thought of about 10 years ago. Seriously. It was called the Bachelor Pad, and it rated men on 10 categories (Age, Cute, Funny, Good Kisser, Ego, Loves Mom, Job/McJob, Long-term Earning Potential, Lied About Pix/Age, Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now). Like everything I do, it’s in a Word document, not an app, which is why it never went anywhere. However, my idea was intended for women to keep track of their own online dates with a software that integrated with dating sites. It was not intended for public consumption. That’s what makes me profoundly uncomfortable with Lulu.

It’s hard to argue with anything that is ostensibly about women’s safety. Taking the contrary side can be construed as anti-woman, which, of course, I’m not. But I am a believer in privacy and the act of discovery in dating. I believe in leading with trust instead of fear, and dating the way people dated years ago, with a slower courtship that reveals information organically over time. Want to know a way to kill romance? Read a dossier on a total stranger before you ever go out. Things can be misinterpreted, misconstrued, or blatantly false.

Am I sympathetic to women who waste time dating married men, or socially awkward guys? Sure. Is it possible that having a public reputation to manage will shame these men into improving their behavior? I guess. Do I really want to see a Yelp for single people? Absolutely not. Because while you may be focused entirely on the upside of doing your research on your new crush, you are not considering the downside.

Want to know a way to kill romance? Read a dossier on a total stranger before you ever go out.

The first one is pretty obvious – just because someone writes something on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Perspective is funny like that. Guy goes out with girl for a month. Hooks up, has fun, but realizes that she’s not “the one”. Breaks it off with her. His interpretation: “I don’t see the point in wasting my time with someone who will not be my wife.” Her interpretation: he’s a selfish user, player, and Peter Pan all wrapped in one. Because why would a guy sleep with a woman if he didn’t plan on marrying her? I’m not suggesting that women are the only ones prone to some form of “hell hath no fury”, but that Lulu is an app specifically for women to subjectively rate men. I suppose you can say that if there are enough ratings, the false ones will balance out, but that’s not necessarily true. When people rate dating sites, they usually are two stars out of five. Why? Because happily married people don’t get on the internet to talk about how much they loved Match. But bitter people sure love to complain online.

The second one is more problematic – what if the shoe were on the other foot. What if there were a site rating you on: age, hotness, cool, sweet, secure, gold digger, puts out, ticking clock/wants a rock, lied about pix/age, working girl? What if guys you met for an hour who thought you were cold or stuck up decided to post it online? Would that be fair? Would it change your behavior in the future? Would you want strangers to have to see these subjective (and possibly false) ratings? Would you want to have to worry about your “reputation management” on Facebook?

I think I know the answer.

Like communism and cloning, rating men is much better in theory than in practice. Says one Lulu user, “It’s just this gratifying thing that you know you can do,” she said. “You have no control of whether a guy is great or a jerk and at the end of the experience, even if no one reads it, you feel like you have gotten back at the guy. You have taken a bit of control.”

Your thoughts below are appreciated.