So. You’re walking down the street, looking at your phone, obviously—looking at New York is for tourists, not New Yorkers!—and out of your peripheral smartphone vision you see a hot pair of shoes. You give this hot shoe situation a lightning-quick up-down, and see they’re attached to a hot person! A person who is now walking away from you, into your long list of missed opportunities. What now?! You can’t just go up to them, or pretend to walk the same direction to get another look—what are you, a creepy freak? No. Just keep your eyes on that phone, friend. You’ve got Happn!
You can tell Happn is a meeting-other-people app because it’s missing a letter. It claims it will “save us from missed connections” by tracking when two Happn users pass each other, marking the spot, and providing each user a look at the profile of their “missed” connection(s). “Missed,” if I know New York City, because one or both people were looking at their phone, or the ground, or throwing absolutely bulletproof pre-work bitch face.
The app is built around the mythic rom-com meet-cute—the part of the movie where two people see each other at a place, then one of them says something to the other, and they either are in love right away or one totally hates the other one, those are the only two options, and they go from there. People are moving to cities every day in hopes of meeting their meet-cute and getting on with the rest of their movie. Happn’s meet-cutes contain the minor devastation of kizmet: It would have been a meet-cute, but he was too far away/I wasn’t looking/I’m so awkward! Talking is, indeed, so awkward, and anyway everyone’s on their phone all the time everywhere, and eye contact is so twentieth-century. Solution: Bring the meet-cute to in front of your face on your phone!
The way it works is: You get a Happn account, other people also get Happn accounts, and when you pass each other, the app marks who you passed and where. No more scouring Craigslist for “Manic pixie dream girl dancing like no one was watching on the Manhattan-bound L” or “Plaid shirt w/ beard, SoHo? Blond.” Instead, you can collect an electronic catalog of people you walked past, whom you can swipe away and never see again or connect with IRL (again). More importantly, you can stop feeling like you’re missing out by checking your Twitter mentions instead of looking at the sky over 7th Avenue, or wherever. It’s the app that meet-cutes for you, so you can keep doing what you do, and get back to it later.
I’m sad about this app. Which doesn’t matter, of course, but I am. Its success is not a question, really, as it’s already expanded from its native Paris to London, Berlin, Barcelona, and now New York City, and people love meet-cutes. But it’s the sort of thing that, if not quite encourages, then enables passively antisocial behavior like being glued to your phone, or not paying basic attention to the world around you. But then this is the way we live now. So much of our lives happen online, it can be difficult to meet people IRL. Like online dating, Happn is a response to online living, an effort to facilitate human connection, even connection mediated through technology. But on the other hand, true meet-cutes, the sort people talk about hoping to find, happen because two people are in the same place at the same time—like, really there, instead of leveling up on Candy Crush Saga. At least now, I suppose, you can find someone who shares your interests.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.