This article originally appeared on VICE US
When I was 11, a kid who was bigger than me punched me in the stomach during a game of dodgeball and I cried. When I was 12, I punched a kid who was smaller than me in the stomach during a game of basketball. Even though I was the one who punched him, I cried anyway. When I was 23, I pushed a guy in the chest because I was drunk and we were talking shit to each other in line at a taco truck, but my friends made me leave before I could I could punch him (or, more likely, before he could punch me). I cried after this too, though I swear it was because I ended up not getting a taco. When I was 25, some dude punched me in the head outside a bar and I ran away before he could punch me any further. This is my total history of physical violence—skirmishes with middle-schoolers, followed by tears.
Because of my spotty history with violence, I really want to get in a fight. Not a fight that ends in me getting sent to the hospital; just a fair fight in which me and another dude my size punch each other a few times and feel better about being total marks.
So naturally, you can understand my momentary jubilation when I heard about Rumblr, aka "Tinder for Fights." The app, the news of which broke last week, promised to provide recreational fighters with the means for finding each other for some good ol' fashioned poundin'.
Would-be fighters should watch Fightland's documentary, "The Art of the Stance"
On Sunday night, the New York Daily Newswrote about Rumblr, reporting that the founders of "Tinder for fights" had claimed their app had "relatively substantial funding from private American investors." The founders pledged—or threatened—to unleash the app Monday at 5 pm EST.
Rumblr was fake, of course: anything that baldly anti-social was bound to be fake. But there was that one beautiful moment of possibility in which it seemed it was not fake and that some entrepreneur had decided to sell short on the idea that humanity was inherently good, and had cynically made an app that would have let strangers fight the shit out of each other. I genuinely think people would have used this until someone figured out a way to make it illegal.
To their credit, von Hughes, the company behind the prank, played it straight until the last possible second. Even in the face of a Business Insider story confidently announcing "The 'Tinder for fighting' app Rumblr is actually just a marketing stunt" and the fact that @getrumblr, the Instagram account associated with the app, didn't actually exist, the von Hughes people told me in an email that the app was "100 percent real" and that they'd love totalk to me after the app launched.
In the interest of journalism and not at all in the interest of making up for the certified pussification of my past, I signed up for the app as soon as it dropped, even before I could confirm its veracity either way. I gave myself a username (@fuk_u_bro) and a bio ("i'm not here to fight online, i'm online to get in fights"), and got to Tinder-for-fighting-ing. I was ready to fight some fools (and probably get beat up).
As soon as this fellow named @dudecati started chatting me in generic tough guy-isms, I realized that whole thing was definitely a sham. But still, it was pretty fun to try to talk shit to this robot-man.
Alas, then this happened:
It turns out Rumblr was the result of a creative consulting agency looking for a bunch of free, media-supplied publicity.
The team behind Rumblr spoke to me on the phone following yesterday's Big Reveal while they were sharing an Uber to Times Square. All three of them claimed to be college dropouts (one, Matt, told me he was 18) who made Rumblr as a portfolio piece to showcase their design, coding, and marketing skills.
"The joke's as real for as long as it can be," said a member of the von Hughes team who identified himself as Matt.
A developer who said his name was Andrew told me, "The original idea [for Rumblr] started off as a joke to see what we could do to make something viral, and it kind of ended up getting substantially more press than we'd expected very quickly."
I told them I felt like Rumblr was the product of a joke that suddenly became real after all of their press. Andrew agreed, saying, "It ended up moving so much quicker than we thought. We realized if we just stayed up all weekend we could make something over the weekend and get as much out of it as we could."
In a way, even the media outlets who reported on Rumblr as if it were real (including Complex, New York Mag, and Gizmodo) benefit from the fact that it was fake as much as von Hughes did by making a fake app to bring attention to themselves. Rumblr has given outlets two opportunities to post the same story on social media ("Tinder for fights is coming," AND "Whoops, Tinder for fights was fake") instead of just one. "The truth is, [news outlets] get two stories out of it," Jimmy Kimmel told VICE in an interview earlier this year when discussing the phenomenon of news outlets reporting viral news, then re-reporting that it was fake. "There is a race to put things on the air and it seems like nowadays [media outlets] will check to see if things are real after [the story is] aired rather than before."
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