The New Yorker:
In late 2019, Nivine Jay, a comedian and writer in Los Angeles, was perusing Raya, a private social app, when she matched with someone claiming to be Ben Affleck. He messaged her first, and they chatted for a bit. But then Jay grew skeptical. “He was writing, like, a lot, and I thought, There’s no way that’s really him,” she told me recently. She sent a message accusing the person of being a fake, then unmatched with the account, cutting off contact. Soon enough, though, she received a message from Affleck’s verified Instagram account, which has more than five million followers. “Nivine, why did you unmatch me? It’s me,” Affleck said, in a plaintive phone video shot in closeup. This past spring, Jay turned a clip from that message into a TikTok meme about embarrassing personal moments. “I didn’t put out our whole conversation—there are many more videos from him,” she said. The clip immediately made headlines in Page Six and the Daily Mail, with Jay dubbed “the woman who rejected Ben Affleck.”
In truth, Jay needn’t have worried that Affleck’s profile was false advertising. Raya is the rare social network that insures that all of its users are who they say they are. Since it launched, in Los Angeles, in 2015, it has gained a reputation as the “celebrity dating app” and “Illuminati Tinder.” Impersonation isn’t tolerated, nor is anonymity, much less any form of harassment. The app is private; aspiring users must undergo an application process that can stretch on for months. (One applicant recently reported that she was approved after a wait of two and a half years.) Demi Lovato, Channing Tatum, John Mayer, Lizzo, Cara Delevingne, and Drew Barrymore have all reportedly been members. Nicholas Braun is a stalwart. Simone Biles met her boyfriend, an N.F.L. player, on the app. Once accepted, members must adhere to a rigid code of silence—no exposing other people’s profiles and no screenshotting within the app. Even tweeting too much about Raya, or publicly mentioning another member, can be grounds for a ban. Which means that Jay’s peak moment on the app was also her last. After she posted Affleck’s video on TikTok, the company quickly kicked her off. “Our decision is final,” the fateful message to rule breakers reads.
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