Much is made of Seattle as a city of reserved introverts, and while it’s impossible to say whether a cultural stereotype is the product of realities or just a self-fulfilling prophecy, this exerts a real force on the self-perception of the people of Seattle.
Enter Nudge, a San Francisco-based app that texts users in its cities (which include Austin, Nashville, and Denver, as well as LA and NYC) two or three times a week with date ideas, weekends, and more. ends and other ways to make the most of your precious free time. “Most tech companies allow us to be lazy,” proclaims the Nudge website, “to binge rather than see a gig, post a comment rather than call.” But not Nudge.
Can this app really turn me, recently transplanted to America’s most proudly introverted city, into a social butterfly? I spent two weeks following Nudge’s every whim to find out.
Upon downloading the app, the first directive from my benevolent algorithmic dictator is explicit and very Seattle: Bike to Beers. “Rent Jump Bikes in the U District and ride 4 miles along the Burke-Gilman Trail to drink beers at a hidden brewery on the water.” The brasserie in question, far from being the kind of cozy and unknown hole in the wall evoked by this phrasing, turns out to be hidden in a much more literal sense. But more on that later.
I ask my friend Ian to accompany me on this venture, informing him that we are getting orders from Nudge tonight. But despite our raincoats and sensible shoes, resolve quickly crumbles under the encouragement of light rain and howling winds. We refuse biking to beers, even at the risk of corrupting the purity of this experience. Instead, we drank beers.
By the time we get off the 75 near Magnuson, it’s really dark and the gutters are swollen from the rain. The most direct route to the brewery, which runs along the shore between a bike shop and a youth sailing club, is barricaded due to, what else, construction. What follows is a very wet and muddy quarter of an hour, during which we would (probably) have trespassed on private property more than once during our failed attempts to reach the Magnuson Cafe and Brewery.
We find our way around the back of the building and, after a series of false turns, we find ourselves in front of the sailing club, where we receive puzzled and slightly alarmed looks as we emerge from the shade of the forest, haggard and very humid.
A beer, well settled under the heat and protection of the brewery’s covered patio, is consolation enough for the ordeal of reaching it, and the cauliflower, beer battered and fried within an inch of its life, leaves me more charitable towards Nudge.
The next night brings a new nudge, this one much less modest than Bike to Beers: Hot Tub Boating on Lake Union. “Nothing says #nudging,” the description begins twittering, “like floating in a hot tub on the lake as you watch the pink sunset in Portage Bay.” I look at the application, slightly moved. My editor told me to spend it all, but a party costing a grand total of $473 seems like a bit extravagant on the budget of a municipal magazine.
With the integrity of the experience already compromised by neglecting to cycle to Magnuson, I feel few qualms about ignoring this particular Nudge. Given the app’s startling misunderstanding that I possess excessive amounts of disposable income, however, I view the text arriving a week later with renewed suspicion.
“Cider Hopping on Vashon Island in Fall” offers a kind of staycation, a “gtfo plan without having to book a [airplane emoji].” And as I sit at the hardware store, a purveyor of classic restaurants tucked away in the oldest commercial building on the island, I confess I feel like I’m on vacation, despite the rain blowing in a horizontal deluge on the other side. of the glass.
Nudge’s plan for a day on Vashon does not, at first glance, contain a thought for food – despite a double-headed cider tasting in the afternoon – and so, for our own health and safety, my friends and I choose a detour of breakfast sandwiches covered in pepper aioli.
Nashi Orchards, our next stop, is a leafy bucolic spot. Sheep in a pen outside the tasting room stand still in the rain, as if the downpour could subside if they stayed still enough. Our flight runs the gamut from a cider so dry and sour it evokes white wine to an almost syrupy cordial, and the pours are generous enough to warrant reluctance on my part (a rare occurrence, for context) . When we return to town rejuvenated, Nudge feels like it has delivered its promised weekend.
A hot maple and brown sugar latte from Cafe Flora is the star of a Thanksgiving week “mini Nudge plan” that also includes a walk around the Arboretum, but despite the app’s insistence so that Flora is open all week, the restaurant is closed when we arrive Thursday morning. We return for lunch on Friday, instead, another food-related deviation from Nudge’s plan that I’m not losing any sleep over.
After two weeks, I have to admit that I had a great time and discovered some local businesses that I might not have visited without a “nudge” in the right direction. Clearly the app is geared towards a very particular type of user and sells him (undoubtedly her) a very particular lifestyle, filled with eminently Instagrammable sushi dinners and frolicking in Hunter boots through the foliage of autumn. But while I’m sold on #nudging life, I just can’t afford to buy. My biggest criticism is the lack of a price filter. Outside of my basic plan, Nudge takes it a step further with a premium subscription that gives users access to a huge cache of curated activities, as well as several more personalized premium options, including “Ally Nudge”, which claims to help you become a better supporter. of the black community.
Although they don’t disclose the total number of users, Nudge says “between 12 and 50 percent of millennial women in each of our cities are members.” Of course, the average user doesn’t have to participate in all of the activities that Nudge suggests. However, at the risk of sounding corny, what I enjoyed most about all of these activities was the time spent with friends. And I didn’t really need an app or expensive weekend getaways to enjoy their company.