"It has been a life-changing experience, as silly as that sounds," Herd told Refinery29. "That should stand for something because it goes to show just how big of an impact these platforms have on our behaviour and how we feel about ourselves."
Herd's revelation is nothing new. Health advocates have raised alarms about the addictive nature of social media for years now. But 2018's promotion of digital detoxes has turned into a full-fledged wellbeing movement in Silicon Valley, with tech giants paying heed to these warnings by launching tools to help users better manage the time they spend online.
"As someone that has definitely been overtly addicted to technology over the last few years, this is somewhat of an epidemic — we’re all completely addicted," Herd acknowledges.
The CEO's personal experience served as justification for a feature Bumble was already working on, called Snooze, which will begin rolling out today. Snooze lets users take a break from swiping and messaging with matches, by setting up what is essentially an old-school AIM away message. Anyone can go to the app's Settings > Snooze Mode, select a length of time ranging from 24 hours to indefinitely, and set a status (this is optional, but choices include "I'm traveling", "I'm focused on work", "I'm on a digital detox", and "I'm prioritising myself""). Snooze can be turned off at any time.
Those who opt in to Snooze will not appear in the swipe carousel or be able to swipe themselves, and existing matches will see a message alerting them the feature has been enabled. The latter is something Herd believes is especially important for dating apps, because "if you have somebody just go quiet on someone, that can be perceived as getting rejected and rejection can breed aggression."
Bumble employees have witnessed this aggression firsthand, penning news-making letters to male users who have sent abusive messages to women on the app. Snooze, then, has the potential to serve as a safety tool in addition to its application to mental wellbeing.
Although Bumble's Snooze feature is a first for dating apps, it's not completely new for social media overall: Last month, Instagram and Facebook announced new tools that let users limit app notifications and set time spent reminders. (For some unspecified reason, these are still conspicuously absent from the apps.) When Apple's iOS 12 rolls out to the masses this fall, it will include tools for managing screen time that both tell users how much time they're spending on social media and let them schedule "downtime" from specific apps.
"If you have somebody just go quiet on someone, that can be perceived as getting rejected and rejection can breed aggression."
Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble CEO
Bumble's implementation of digital wellbeing could be popular: The use of the away status is novel, and the ability to take a break from the app without needing to delete it should prove useful for anyone who has reached a swipe threshold.
Even though Snooze could result in less daily user engagement, Herd says she's not concerned: "I actually hope [users] like being off the app for a limited amount of time because at the end of the day we’re human beings and we need to connect. We’re not just in the business of connecting people to connect people, we’re in the business of connecting people to empower connections. How can you have an empowered connection if you don’t feel empowered in your own self?"