Lulu, a flipped experience or more of the same?

The internet can be an unfriendly place for young single women.  Sites where women are ranked on their physical attractiveness have been around since “Hot or Not’ was founded in 2000. “Hot or Not” was designed for strangers online to judge the attractiveness of other men and women. Mark Zuckerberg was inspired  by hot or not to create his own spinoff, FaceMash. This would eventually become modern Facebook.

Facemash as seen in The Social Network.

Facemash as portrayed n The Social Network.

These rating sites were based on looks alone yet, in a world where nearly 40% of single Americans are looking for love online people want to learn as much as they can about this new people before meeting for a drink. Good looks are nice but as the saying goes, beauty is only skin deep. Meeting people online takes away the safety net of asking what your friend of a friend thinks about this stranger. Women are also becoming aware of how much they have to lose when they meet a stranger online. With revenge porn becoming increasingly common online and the ever present risk of violence, women need to know what they might be getting themselves and their online identity into.

Enter Lulu.  Founded by London School of Economics grad Alexandra Chong, Lulu describes itself as a “sort of “Take Back the Internet” moment for young women who have come of age in an era of revenge porn and anonymous, possibly ominous suitors”. The site allows women to connect through their Facebook account and comment on men. The photos and names of men are drawn from their female internet friends. The comments take the form of hastags and include both positive and negative judgements. Example hashtags include:#neversleepsover, #epicsmile, #questionablesearchhistory and #smellsamazeballs.  The hashtaged comments are then compiled into a score between one and ten by Lulu. In the competitive world of online dating, your Lulu score can be much more important than say, a well rounded LinkedIn profile.

My personal experience with Lulu was quite  late to the party after I read the profile of company on the New York Times.  Originally the idea repulsed me as I clearly remember Hot or Not and the depression my friends would experience when they received low scores. Imagine my surprise when I connected with Lulu and didn’t find a single man ranked below a 6. The majority of comments are positive with #supersmart and #momloveshim,  as stand out examples. Perhaps the internet has finally listened to that old adage, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

What do you think of Lulu? A valuable tool for women to even the online playing field or just another form of online bullying? Join the discussion in the comments below.

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