Vybe Together, an app promoting clandestine parties during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been removed from Apple's App Store.
After marketing primarily to young people on TikTok, the social media giant also banned the app. Using the slogan "Get your rebel on. Get your party on," the platform invited users to organize and RSVP to illicit, unsafe parties that defy current COVID-19 restrictions instated by the US government.
Since its removal from the App Store, Vybe Together has scrubbed most of its digital presence. Its website is no longer active, but an archival version offers a glimpse into how the app operates. After users apply by submitting their Instagram handle and photos, they are approved by the app's moderators "if the host finds you interesting." Approved users, who Vybe Together refers to as "Rebels," then receive a party's address two hours before its start.
Vybe Together's marketing efforts attempt to tap directly into consumers' frustration stemming from lockdowns and government restrictions. "Miss playing beer pong, flirting with strangers, and generally just having a blast with the crew?" the site reads. "Vybe is here for you."
Making the now-defunct site even more dubious is the fact that it was also promoting a 12-day, all expenses paid trip to Tulum, a Mexican destination which recently made headlines after a "super-spreader" event that ultimately rippled through New York City. In the event's aftermath, Tulum's impending Zamna Festival was feared to cause similar damage before its eventual postponement. Vybe Together's Tulum promotion reportedly invited users to book a "Vybe House" for the festival, but the advert now redirects visitors to a 404 Error page.
Hidden in plain sight, Vybe Together had been operating in a relatively quiet manner. Its creators didn't seem to have invested in a marketing push, instead relying on word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing via TikTok. However, the app received major exposure after a series of tweets by New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, who lambasted it as a platform built by "terrible people" with the purpose of "finding and promoting COVID-unsafe large, indoor house parties."
Lorenz also shared a recorded video taken from the app that she said promoted secret New Year's Eve parties in New York City. The clip contains a caption that explicitly calls Vybe Together a "secret party app" with gatherings every weekend.
In a statement provided to The Verge, a Vybe Together spokesperson denied that the app was launched to promote unsafe parties during the pandemic. "Vybe Together was [a minimum viable product] designed to help other people organize small get-togethers in parks or apartments during COVID," the representative 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."
Vybe Together's Instagram account was wiped following the backlash and now contains only two posts at the time of this article's publishing. The Verge's report notes that the page published a post—which has since been deleted—that criticized the media's reaction to the platform. "Blown out of proportion by media," the post read. "We DO NOT CONDONE LARGE GATHERINGS." The page's bio states that the app's organizers intend to revive Vybe Together.