You're not a bad texter; dating apps just suck

In This Article:

Originally published on Newsweek

Have you ever used a dating app? If you’re happily married to your high school sweetheart - congratulations, you dodged a bullet. The rest of us know exactly where this is going. Dating apps suck. No, it’s not you.

Online dating works in theory. Swipe right on people you find attractive. Swipe left on people you don’t. If you both swipe right - the app opens a chat between the two of you where you have some delightful banter before exchanging numbers, meet for coffee, and eventually have 2.5 kids in the suburbs.

But reality looks more bleak. Only 16% of first messages get a reply, and most of those don’t lead to a date. If you do start chatting, the conversations all start to feel the same, like a bad sitcom on repeat. How is your week? Is that your dog? 

But as our world becomes more digital - online dating also feels inevitable. As of 2017 40% of couples claimed to have met online - nearly double since 2010. After a year of pandemic lockdowns where online work and education became the new normal, half of us forgot how to make eye contact. It’s tough to imagine serendipitously meeting your future partner at the corner bookstore.

The end result is that more singles are giving up on dating altogether. In fact, over half of US singles are not looking to date at all. Challenges with dating ultimately contribute to the “epidemic of loneliness and social isolation” that the surgeon general says is sweeping the country. It’s not just in our heads - studies show that loneliness increases risk of premature death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

AI can help.

Imagine meeting someone over dinner. You’re well-dressed, witty and well-spoken. Even your dog thinks you’re cute. But that’s not how it usually goes these days. Instead, it’s 7am and you’re on the train to work - staring at 3 photos and a 6 word description and trying to find a clever way to start a conversation. It’s not for lack of charisma. Trying to build rapport with a stranger over text is just hard.

Give AI, and it suggests an engaging conversation starter. Give it a conversation, and it suggests replies. AI texting assistants don’t replace your wit or personality. They help you overcome the initial writer’s block of staring at a conversation wondering what to say. And maybe shift your headspace from the tired commuter to the charismatic cocktail party version of you. 

Seeking inspiration from AI can contribute to deeper and more interesting conversations. Anyone that’s been to a networking event knows how monotonous having the same smalltalk over and over can feel. Left to their own devices, dating app conversations can often devolve into repetitive exchanges of biographical data. By offering personalized and context-aware ideas for where to take the conversation, AI can make the dance of texting more fun. 

AI can also help compensate for lack of social energy. Our culture favors outgoing people, leading to higher life satisfaction and income. Texting assistants can give introverts a leg up. Being one standard deviation more extraverted translates to roughly half of the increase in lifetime earnings one would gain from a college degree. This is doubly true for people suffering from social anxiety. That extra help from AI can make texting feel less overwhelming - and often means the difference between saying something and saying nothing at all.

Those bemoaning the loss of originality should remember that we’re not that original to begin with. Think about the last time you’ve sent someone a movie quote or a meme.  AI is just one more way of taking existing content and re-delivering it to connect with someone. What emerges is less texting fatigue, and deeper conversations.

Done well, AI conversation assistants can make it easier to relate. To skip past the cliched niceties and get to the kinds of deeply connective conversations that don’t normally emerge until late into the night sitting around a fire or in a college dorm. The kinds of conversations that become ever more rare in a world where we spend our time stuck in cars or staring into zoom calls. It’s nice to imagine going back to the good-old days - when connection meant community, and a person could live their entire life within the hundred square miles they were born in. However, technology marches ever forward, stretching people’s ability to keep up with the pace of change.

Executed correctly - AI can make it easier for us to forge deep connections. To start, it can just make online dating a little less hard.