Harriet Walker: The Avocado app knows if you're faking


Harriet Walker
Sunday 17 February 2013 01:00

I found out recently – that is, somebody told me and I believed them but haven't yet checked the veracity of the statement, either on Google or with my friend who knows about stuff like this – that avocados grow in pairs. And not only do the trees like to hang out next to one another, their fruit develops à deux too. This is one helluva lovey-dovey piece of flora.

The reason I know this is because I decided, for the good of this column, to undertake one of the most stomach-turning projects I've ever put my name to. And bear in mind that this column has in the past seen me take up Bikram yoga, where I was actually sick, purely to have something to write about.

You see, Avocado is the name of a new app. For couples. To connect with each other.

I take a very dim view of artificial things designed to make people get on better – so, in fact, does my boyfriend. It's a wide bracket that extends all the way from this app to "team away days", where you have to gird yourself to fall backwards into the arms of someone you don't really trust, to more abstract socialising constructs, such as clapping along at musicals or insulting women so they're more likely to fancy you.

In my book, they're all a bit like deliberately buying orange juice without the bits in: they mean you can't cope with real life. Things have bits in, get over it. Some people are never going to like you, that's how it goes. Clapping to music doesn't improve it in any way – it just makes everyone feel awkward and as if their arms are too long for their bodies.

Likewise, I assumed that Avocado (the app) was for people in unfulfilling relationships who had either run out of things to say to each other or didn't have time to say them. Either way, not a blissful union. When I eat avocado (the fruit), it makes my mouth all itchy, so I prepared myself for a similarly allergic reaction to its techy namesake.

If I'm honest, we began hubristically and thought we were better than the sort of people who might use this app.

But it turns out we were just as bad. It was as funny and fun as actually spending time together, without the stress of having to check your make-up every 10 minutes. That said, we set up our respective profiles while sitting next to each other on the sofa, sniggering at how wildly irreverent we were being with Avocado's sickly default settings.

You're supposed to upload a picture of yourself so that the other person can moon over you from miles away, not to mention visualise properly the hugs and kisses you can send each other (bring me back that sickbag, will you? Empty it out first, please). But imagine gurning or pouting away into your phone camera for a shot that is suitably sweet but sexy, then imagine the calamity when your partner thinks your most glamorous portrait is one you've taken as a joke. To avoid that scenario, I chose as my avatar a photo of some eggs we'd broken into a bowl for breakfast that had serendipitously settled into a big yolky smiley face. And my boyfriend uploaded a picture of left-wing broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli.

From that moment, we were a pair of avocados: green and mushy:

"U ok hun?"

"Have eaten all the Wispa bites, please bring some more round."

It shouldn't still be thrilling, in a world that is more connected than it ever has been, to get messages from someone that you know is likely to be in touch with you anyway. It shouldn't be this easy to entertain people through a type of communication they're already wholly familiar with, by just painting the screen green and naming it after a romantically inclined subcontinental fruit. What have we become?

But perhaps it's precisely because getting in touch is so easy that it means all the more to you when someone sends you something a bit special. When someone takes the time to download an app that should rightly make them vomit, before keying in a special password only known to the two of you. (I'm swallowing bile over here.)

But the pièce de résistance about Avocado is that when you send hugs and kisses, you actually have to hold the phone to your heart or your lips before it will send. It's no use just jabbing at it with your fingers, it knows when you're faking.

The way I see it, if someone is prepared to be seen in public smooching or caressing their mobile device and making a tit of themselves for you – all in the name of being romantic – that's how you know you've got a good one.

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