I’ll spare you the “There’s an app for that” joke and get to the point: BroApp for the Android ($2) was designed for men who fancy themselves too busy to text their girlfriends.
Called “your clever relationship wingman” by its developers (and a way to “outsource our humanity” by a Wired columnist), BroApp allows users to preset and schedule text messages to their girlfriends to help create the illusion that they’re thinking of them and are interested in their lives, and, with the girls sufficiently pacified, enable men to “spend more time with their bros.” The app can detect “noBro zones,” such as the wifi in your girlfriend’s apartment, and won’t send automated texts while you’re there. It also shuts itself off if you’ve sent her any real-time texts too short a time ago, lest it arouse girlfriend suspicion.
In addition, the BroApp makers – reportedly two 29-year-old Australian men who will only give reporters first names – claim that if any girlfriends come sniffing around BroApp on your phone, it won’t reveal its true purpose and will instead bring the girlfriend to a fake list of “gifts you plan to buy her.”
Cynical, misogynistic and heterocentric are a few “problematic” areas that spring to mind when pondering the BroApp, but as is becoming a part of my process more and more in this exciting age of Internet reporting and blogging, I also have to ask myself one question:
Is this shit even real?
The promo video is pretty funny, for one thing:
Even if the developers think that BroApp actually provides a useful service, they clearly see the humor in their idea. Famed misogynist Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio’s loathsome main character in The Wolf of Wall Street) are among the contacts in the phone in the ad for the app, as is feminist writer Germaine Greer, James O’Malley notes in his article on the app for TechDigest.
“Surely no one would be crazy enough to actually make this app?” O’Malley asks. “The depressing thing is that we can’t tell for sure. Given the tech industry’s, umm, somewhat hostile approach to women in the past, it could be that someone truly thought that this was a good idea…but we’re just hoping that it’s a fake.”
Online messaging, imaging, and video have gotten increasingly sophisticated over the last couple decades, and so too have the Internet’s hoaxes and assorted fakery. Now one never knows if a viral video is actually the work of some dicks on Madison Avenue shilling for some product, Jimmy Kimmel is making up fake wolf prowling in Sochi stories and releasing a staged twerker-sets-herself-on-fire video, and the Internet is currently debating the sincerity of a company called BiteLabs, which claims it wants to make and sell “artisan” sausage made with celebrity tissue.
It was one thing wondering if Lonelygirl15’s YouTube show was a real teen’s video diary in 2007, but it’s quite another to have to wonder if the story you’re reading on CNN.com or in The New York Times is the result of some hapless reporter being duped.
Much like the difference in opinion about the viability of the celebrity sausage idea, there are some who have suggested that BroApp could serve some purpose other than possibly making girlfriends feel stupid if they discover it. Autistic bros who wouldn’t necessarily think to check in with a girlfriend on their own might find it useful (at least theoretically). Those whose bros would mock them and call them pussies for checking in with their girlfriends while hanging with the boys could text sweet nothings in secret, avoiding ridicule.
Supporting the case for fakery, however, is this suspiciously insincere-sounding item from the FAQ page: “Bros in our Beta trial responded with a 99% Bro satisfaction rating and a 3 fold increase [in] Bro happiness. Over the course of the Bro App Beta trial we even saw one marriage proposal.”
And although BroApp might be insulting to women by assuming that women are needy yet easily fooled, and satisfied by some bland, automated message, it might also be offensive to some men, as it plays into the dumbass, Hot Pockets-eating lummox stereotype of the guy too clueless to be able to keep his girlfriend happy without the aid of an app.
But with critics gushing about how much the movie HER accurately reflects our culture’s difficulty with real intimacy and countless apps designed to hold your hand throughout every day, is BroApp so farfetched?
I don’t think that the app is necessarily fake because its creators see the humor in it.
There’s a difference between seeing and acknowledging the idiocy in something and parody. And I mean, Australia is a country not exactly well-known for forward-thinking, feminist-supporting men. Is it possible that these guys are making a statement about misogyny in the tech world? Or is the claim that the makers are Australian supposed to make BroApp sound more plausible and thus part of the joke?
Frankly, I’m tired of asking questions like this. Maybe Internet hoaxes and fake viral campaigns will become so overblown that a much-needed Age of Sincerity on the internet will follow. But if I start reading about one, unfortunately, I’ll probably have to assume it’s a hoax.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.