So, yes, Raya is less superficial than its reputation would suggest. But surely Mr. Gendelman would admit that attractiveness and notoriety play some role in its criteria for admission. Consider, I said, my nonexistent Uncle Tony — a hypothetical terrible-looking old man with no public profile and no Instagram following to speak of. If he applied to Raya, he’d be an automatic rejection, right?
Mr. Gendelman shook his head.
“Is Tony decently interesting? Is he passionate?” he asked. “I’m not kidding — we’re interested in curating digital dinner parties, so to speak, and that comes in all forms.”
Among the Carb Enthusiasts
After we met, Mr. Gendelman gave me my own Raya account, so that I could see the community’s diversity for myself. He made me promise not to name any members I met there, a condition I accepted on the grounds that many of the famous ones have already been outed.
After agreeing to abide by the rules, I opened the app and created my profile using a few carefully chosen photos and an Imagine Dragons song I pulled randomly from iTunes. (Raya uses full-screen slide shows set to music, in lieu of static profile photos.)
Within the first day of use, I spotted an A-list musician, several TV news anchors, a household-name comedian, two N.F.L. players and a high-ranking tech executive. I saw lots of nonfamous people too — college students, designers, seemingly the entire editorial staff of Condé Nast. Everyone was either very attractive or the kind of person to whom very attractive people would be drawn.
There is something thrilling, and a little embarrassing, about this rarefied air. To go on Raya is to enter a strange and alluring world filled with thirsty elites, a place where fame is measured in Instagram followers and humble-bragging is a high art (“I direct things,” reads the profile of one successful filmmaker; a well-known television actress describes herself only as a “carb enthusiast”), and where the average B.M.I. seems to hover in the high teens.