Love in the Time of Venmo

After the breakup, don't forget to unfriend your ex on Venmo—or else.

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Complex Original

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Open your phone. Notice anything? Virtually every app has some social component to it, which means virtually every app on your phone is also a dating app. You can browse someone’s everyday life via Snapchat. You can comment on what music someone is listening to with Spotify. My friend Sarah got hit on while playing the game "Words with Friends" with a stranger.

This inevitably changes things like breaking up. When you break up in 2016, it's important to remember that peace of mind isn't really possible. Thanks to social media, you’ll be constantly bombarded with updates about your ex’s life post-you, which is sure to be GREAT, and HAPPY, and SUPER FUN. Godspeed. If you’re smart, you’ll unfriend that person on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, and trick yourself into thinking that they never existed in the first place.

But whatever you do, please do not forget Venmo.

Venmo, as you likely already know, is an app for sending and receiving money. Just like Facebook or Instagram, you can add anyone you know using the app as a friend, something my friend Cayla came to understand the hard way. “I accidentally added all of my phone contacts on Venmo and woke up with texts from two ex-boyfriends and someone in my phone as ‘Mike?’ asking me how I was doing. I don't even care that this isn’t anonymous."

The app is a document of everyone’s social lives in the cold, hard light of capitalism and emoji captions. There’s a “you” timeline where you can see the transactions you’re directly involved in. If you’re anything like me, as soon as you downloaded Venmo you made all your settings private so that no one except you and the involved parties could see the activity (and you also have to scan your fingerprint to get into the app. Just me? Okay). But a lot of people like to live dangerously. There’s a “friends” timeline where you can see what your friends are sending to other people, and then there’s a “world” option where you can witness the transactions of total strangers. People who are cool with themselves being visible on the “world” option are people I never want to know personally.

The “friends” option lets anyone in your contacts see what you’re up to, and it’s where you can go to feel some of the strongest FOMO you’ll ever experience. Thank god you can’t see the amounts of the transactions you’re not involved in, or else you’d probably feel poor in addition to lonely. On the “friends” transactions, you can see the captions. Among the transactions for “rent $” and “tv/internet” is a live stream of people having the time of their little lives with people who aren’t you. I just opened my Venmo and saw a transaction that read “birthday sex” between a girl and this guy I used to make out with in college. Someone had a good birthday! Or you’re like my friends who live together and send transactions such as, “I bought Frozen on your iTunes while you were sleeping. Let it go.”

Sometimes the social aspect of the app comes in handy. One time I was trying to get into a club with some friends, but to no avail. In the midst of this, one of us remembered we had to pay someone back for something on Venmo, and via the app we saw another friend had sent money with the name of the club in the caption. We called him and he came outside. We still didn’t get into the club, but thanks to Venmo we ALMOST did.

I just opened my Venmo and saw a transaction that read 'birthday sex' between a girl and this guy I used to make out with in college. 

Taking all of this into account, real love in the time of Venmo is great. You can be like one woman who told me a guy sent her money for her to fly to L.A. to see him. You can try and make your boyfriend or girlfriend laugh with the jokes you crack in the captions. Paying people back is seamless. This story from an anonymous submission sums up Venmo dating quite well: “I had an experience where I was dating someone and the condom broke while we were having sex, so we went to buy Plan B. We found a Rite Aid, and I bought the thing for $50. He didn’t say anything at the checkout counter. Later that day, I received a Venmo from him for $25. And in the description? Two emojis: the girl emoji with her arms crossed like an X, and the baby emoji.” There’s still money-related awkwardness, but now it’s all confined to technology.

In the realm of breakups, the social feature of Venmo is a cruel form of torture. It becomes glaringly obvious that your ex is fine without you in just a series of minor transactions. I know someone who, after being dumped by her longtime boyfriend, plummeted into a Venmo K-hole in which she discovered she could see what her ex and his new girlfriend were doing together. Emoji captions became codes to break. Concerts, Moroccan restaurants, comedy shows—she could see all the activities he was doing with his new girlfriend that he wouldn’t do with her. She told me, “There is such thing as knowing too much and Venmo is arguably the most telling of all. Why? If you're going dutch on dates, it ain't gonna last.”

Venmo’s in this weird period right now where most people aren’t totally keyed into this sinister aspect of the app until it’s too late, but I talked to one guy that was too wise for his years: “I turned my Venmo history on private shortly after breaking up with my girlfriend in anticipation of hanging out with another woman and ending up at a cash only place for lunch. Which we did.”

Since this is now the world we live in, I say you might as well use Venmo to your advantage to get over an ex. Scroll back and look at his or her transaction history and realize that they spent too much money on personal grooming. Remember how much you hate their friends. Forget all the good and use this transaction document to remember everything you loathed about that person and the relationship.

Or use it for revenge, just like this woman I heard from who made out with a guy on a vacation to Puerto Rico. When she returned to N.Y., she texted him, only to find that he’d ghosted her. She saw him on Venmo sending lots of money back and forth with another woman, and realized it was his girlfriend after a quick Facebook search. “I liked the transaction,” she laughs. “I wanted to alarm him.” The guy probably got the notification and shit his pants.

The social aspect of the app speaks to a larger aspect of contemporary dating. The people with the “friends” option turned on are flaunting their lives in the same way we all do on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, just in the most concise version possible: money spent.

Why is this “friends” option even available? We’re all trying to prove we’re fine all the time—even when we aren’t—and it's no different on Venmo.

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