The short, stupid life of Vybe Together, an app designed to organize pandemic parties
It’s hard to imagine a dumber app for 2020 than Vybe Together. Released earlier this year, it encourages people to “be social” and host parties together during the pandemic. After gaining attention from its recent TikTok promotion, the app was removed from the App Store on Tuesday evening, but not before the sort of spectacular public burnout that can only come from a terrible idea meeting internet notoriety.
Vybe Together started getting noticed on social media Tuesday afternoon after New York Times Styles reporter Taylor Lorenz spotted the service creating videos on TikTok. The short clips showed maskless, sweaty people partying, drinking, and dancing. Text on the screen said, "We are a secret party app" and promised "gatherings every weekend." The hook of the video, which was uploaded with the caption "Let's be social," was a New Year's Eve party. Viewers were encouraged to visit a link to download the Vybe Together app for a chance to attend.
The Vybe Together website, which has since been taken down, invited people to "Get your rebel on" and host parties. "Miss playing beer pong, flirting with strangers, and generally just having a blast with your crew? Vybe is here for you," the site read. One version of the website called Vybe Together the "Tinder of nightlife.”
As for that nagging issue of coronavirus, the app creators want you to know they’ve heard of it. On its Frequently Asked Questions page under the heading, "What about Covid?" the creators explained, "We are aware that Covid is a major health problem to the country, our communities, our friends and family. If we all could just be in isolation this could actually go away. Having large scale parties is very dangerous. That is why we don't support that. But Vybe is a compromise, no big parties but small gatherings. We could be living, at least a little during these times with Vybe."
What Vybe Together claimed to provide was a way for people to host parties, which were discoverable by anyone. Those people could then request access to the party, which the host could either grant or deny. The app would reveal the address of the party two hours before the event.
Mic found that Vybe Together is actually just a rebrand of another app called WeTrendies. The short-lived service that first launched in September 2019, according to domain registry information, used a website that prompted users to sign up to receive notifications of "secret parties" in New York City, supposedly hosted every Friday and Saturday. Prior to being wiped of all its content, the Vybe Together Instagram page also had a saved Story called "Trendies" and included photos that were tagged with Trendies or WeTrendies.
WeTrendies, like Vybe Together, seemed to intentionally flout the idea of respecting the recommendations of health experts. On May 21, 2020, a video was uploaded to a YouTube account associated with WeTrendies that showed what appeared to be a sizable gathering with lots of attractive people all in close proximity to one another. The video was titled "Lockdown play." It appears as though the footage taken at that party was later used in some of the promotional material for Vybe Together.
Both WeTrendies and Vybe Together were the creation of Alexander Dimcevski. When contacted about Vybe Together, Dimcevski sent a statement to Mic. "Vybe Together was an MVP designed to help other people organize small get togethers in parks or apartments during COVID," he said. "We never hosted any large parties, and we made one over-the-top marketing video that left a wrong impression about our intentions, which has since been taken down. We do not condone large unsafe parties during a pandemic. We will release a video with us vybing about it soon."
This doesn’t, um, vibe with much of the promotional material for Vybe Together. On top of the video promoting a New Year's Eve party and the website encouraging people to "rebel" and gather with strangers, Vybe Together was also running a promotion for the upcoming Zamna Music Festival, set to be held in Tulum, Mexico from December 31 to January 16. Users were encouraged to use a referral link to get friends to download the Vybe Together app. Each download provided a "ticket" into a raffle to win a VIP experience at the 17-day long music festival, including a stay at the Vybe House.
Through a reverse image search, Mic discovered that the Vybe House was actually a large villa in Tulum listed on Airbnb. The home is available for up to 16 people to rent, but the house rules specify that there are to be no parties or events. "If security reports a party at any hour of the day you will be asked to leave the property immediately," the rules, set by the host, state. Mic spoke with Diego, the host of the villa that had been promoted as the Vybe House. He says he had "no idea" that the property had been promoted by Vybe Together and had no affiliation with the app. "This unit is only rented by us on Airbnb and it’s not available outside of this platform," he says.
It's also worth noting that Tulum has become something of a coronavirus hot spot. A five-day festival called Art With Me, described as a knockoff Burning Man, hosted in the city in mid-November has been identified as a superspreader event. At least 17 Americans tested positive after returning home from the festival. Health officials have asked that the Zamna Music Festival be postponed, but it seems the event will go on. It is expected to attract thousands of tourists, and tickets are entirely sold out.
If Vybe Together was attempting to promote small, safe gatherings as its founder claims, it might not want to associate itself with a multi-week music festival that has been condemned by health experts. Instead, the app spent its short-lived bit of internet fame trying to help people ignore the advice of health care professionals.
Vybe Together’s timing could not be worse. The coronavirus pandemic is still raging, with cases spiking and the death toll increasing every single day. But its entire existence was premised on that bad timing, on being the app that gets people together against everyone’s better interests. Vybe Together is the definition of play stupid games, win stupid prizes.