Swiping Right On A Robot: Is AI Ruining Dating Apps?

Dating apps have never been the pinnacle of truth and accuracy. Selfies are heavily edited, job titles are exaggerated, and somehow every guy seems to say he loves hiking, “The Office,” and is over 6 feet tall.

By Alina Clough2 min read
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While part of the demand for exaggeration stems from an increasingly picky female audience, the dating app arms race is getting spookily technologically advanced. Now, advances in artificial intelligence are making it harder than ever to even know if you’re talking to a real person. AI has been quickly gaining traction and attention recently, from viral face edits to auto-generated art, and most recently, updated language models mean AI is learning to speak surprisingly convincingly. ChatGPT, one of the newest and most advanced language models, is so sophisticated it can write passing essays for AP students, and it’s gaining users in its first few weeks faster than even Instagram and Spotify did.

Is That a Bot in Your DMs?

Many people are using the convincing dialogue from these artificial intelligence tools for things like generating Instagram captions and job descriptions, but others are beginning to apply the technology to an unexpected arena: romance.

Scammers have long utilized bots to trick dating app users into romance scams, creating fake profiles to lure app users into giving away their money and cybersecurity for the false promise of singles out of their league. According to the FTC, these scams are hitting record-high profits, costing victims $1.3 billion in the last five years.

Historically, these romance scams were staffed by real humans behind the catfishing facade, but as chatbots get more sophisticated, many scammers are turning to automation to scale. Before more advanced AI, bots had a number of tell-tale signs that made it easier to tell that they were fake. Tips like watching out for repetitive topics, asking about current events, or looking for patterns could help users tell whether a conversation partner was human or machine.

But as natural language algorithms improve, bots are getting more and more convincing. The number of scams is now almost doubling year to year, with many requesting payments with cryptocurrency to cover their tracks.

Catfishing Your Convos

Chatbots are no longer just the realm of scammers. While dating app inaccuracies used to just mean inflated heights and overly edited selfies, some users are turning to chatbot technology not for cash but for actual dates.

Using technology to talk to dating app matches used to be a superpower only programmers could harness. One TikTok user from New York City went viral after revealing he’d been able to swipe on 49,000 women – and successfully chat with 5,000 of them – using an AI chatbot he programmed. The bot would automatically message women using James Bond and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho quotes, attempting to set up a date. As crazy as it sounds, apparently, it was convincing: 500 women gave him their numbers.

Luckily, most dating app users are too concerned with efficiency to worry about programming a chatbot themselves. But companies are now seeing a way to profit from helping people outsource their small talk to robots. Programs like Keys promise to help users score in the dating pool by doing the heavy lifting of thinking of what to write. While they claim to just be time savers or conversation starters, it’s possible to make the program carry the entire conversation, meaning you could end up on a date to meet someone who’s never actually written you a single message themselves.

Closing Thoughts

If dating apps are meant to facilitate getting to know one another, it’s hard to question their efficacy if everything from photos to profiles to even the conversations can be completely computer generated. Dating apps have always been a little fake. But with the influx of chatbots, is anything left about them that’s still real?

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