Bumble banned users from having guns in their profile pictures for the interest of user safety, but this decision may unintentionally result in more societal fragmentation.
Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, many companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association. Their decision signals solidarity with those affected by gun violence and places pressure on national leaders to pass comprehensive gun legislation. Amid this growing sensitivity, Bumble, a dating app popularized by its effort to subvert gender norms by letting women make the first move, responded by banning users from having guns in their profile pictures.
Bumble’s desire to foster a safe environment is encouraging –– its outright intolerance suggests that we are approaching rampant gun violence’s expiration date. Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe, however, emphasized that Bumble’s decision to ban guns was not politically driven. Herd’s message was clear: put aside bipartisan beliefs surrounding gun control with the sole intent of ensuring everyone’s safety. Yet, her attempt to semantically tear apart the politics from Bumble’s stance oversimplifies its action. The gun debate in its origin is inherently political. Bumble needs to take ownership of its impact, recognizing that labeling itself as political bystanders ultimately gives it little, real leverage.
Despite the framing, Bumble’s decision is still revolutionary. Exerting control to instigate change is proactive in challenging the United States to grow. However, it is imperative to also consider how Bumble’s censorship has the potential to establish more division by facilitating a more homogenous user base. This trend could spur the rapid creation of niche pro-gun dating communities, which already exist with sites like Concealed Carry Match.
On the internet, we are prone to this kind of self-segregation. Algorithms implemented by social media and search engines determine and predict our interactions, making the pursuit of communities in line with our views even easier. Though the ability to find people we readily connect with is convenient, homogeneity can lend itself to overwhelming groupthink. By constantly surrounding ourselves with people who fundamentally agree with us, we lose touch with our ability to openly and productively communicate dissent. The 2016 presidential election is a notorious example of this funneling and its consequences.
Simultaneously, communication within modern dating culture is idiosyncratically impaired. With the rise of online dating, people have an unparalleled capacity to micromanage their self-presentation. Strategy is especially salient when users, in text-based conversations, have the option to be vague about their intentions and expectations to reach an endgame. Users also often “ghost,” or forego a response to avoid unwanted conversations. These cultural tendencies demonstrate how we retain such immense power from behind a screen, that clear, effective communication is not thought of as vital.
Imagining the intersection of homogeneous online communities and dating culture wrought by the internet is wildly intimidating. The larger picture comes into focus to illustrate how politics and dating are inseparable, entwined by their inextricable relationship to American consciousness. With the contribution of social media, the polarizing Second Amendment seems fated to create irreconcilable factions. The responsibility then falls on us to be individually aware of our internet inclinations and the shifting cultural terrain. We have the task of promoting transparency and empathy to combat the fragmentation of what is meant to be one nation.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this appeared in the Monday, March 19 print edition. Email Janice Lee at [email protected].