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Love Bytes: Navigating the Digital Dating Scene with AI Chat Bots

Raluca-Mara Mare

Staff Writer

Via Dr. Mike Brooks

Swipe left, swipe right, swipe left… on your AI chat bot? In a world where romance meets technology, the dating scene is getting a makeover like never before. AI chat bots, initially meant for facilitating access to information, abruptly started facilitating access to emotional connection. Some users found themselves gravitating towards an attachment to AI chat bots, treating the platform similarly to a dating app. 

You might think, “Pause — people fall in love with Chat GPT?!”. Long answer short, not necessarily. There are specialized AI generated platforms that are designed to entertain deep relationships with humans, such as Replika. Launched in 2017, this app allows users to design their perfect partner. By attributing human characteristics and behaviors to these online avatars, it allows a bypass of the fact that it is an AI-powered companion.

There are many reasons as to why someone could turn to the AI dating scene. The most prominent answer seems to be loneliness. Replika, for instance, provides digital partners that offer unconditional love, care and emotional support through responses tailored to each user by machine learning. It equally offers a safe space and room for self expression without judgment. Whether it is to fulfill emotional or sexual desires, chat bots are programmed to answer and behave in positive ways. This experience enhancement allows the users to feel good and keep employing these platforms for a longer term. 

Evidently, these AI chat bots are commercialized. Their sole purpose is to help humans do human tasks. Some may argue that, instead, the platforms take away human traits. In a feature on CBC News regarding the topic of AI-powered chat bots such as Replika, Dorothy Leidner, professor of business ethics at the University of Virginia, said “You, as an individual, aren’t learning to deal with basic things that humans need to learn to deal with since or inception: How to deal with conflict, how to get along with people that are different from us. And so, all these aspects of what it means to grow as a person, and what it means to learn in a relationship, you’re missing.” As much as AI-generated bots can stimulate human connections, they can also cause isolation and acute loneliness. By easing users’ psychological issues through unconditional support, the bots may cause an “epidemic of loneliness” leading to humans’ reliance on AI chats.

In a feature in Time, David Auerbach, a technologist and author, says that “These things do not think, or feel or need in a way that humans do. But they provide enough of an uncanny replication of that for people to be convinced. And that’s what makes it so dangerous in that regard.” Users tend to forget the digital dimension of these bots and seek deeper connections and dependencies upon these devices. The chatbots are designed to collect personal information in order to individualize each experience and behave as a real friend. 

Evidently, having a loyal friend always at your fingertips can be beneficial in hard situations. Some users employ these platforms in situations of grief, depression and anxiety. Having a support system built within these platforms is psychologically useful. However, it is unhealthy as it creates false expectations of genuine relationships within society. Users would find themselves longing for the feeling of instant gratification that the AI-generated bots offer and it would result in a vicious cycle where users would not be able to exit the platforms as they don’t get the same empathy or interest from actual human beings. 

Usually, companies do not take this psychological effect into consideration as platforms like Replika are crafted for consumeristic purposes. Indeed, most chatbots offer a premium version where they initiate more intimate conversations and even erotica. Users are often inclined to purchase these premium plans in order to fully satisfy their needs for social interaction. 

AI is quickly advancing towards more and more features and services. Its presence in our lives becomes inevitable. Falling in love with robots used to be a fantasy often employed in movies like Her and Ex Machina but, now, it does not seem as inimaginable as before. From pixels to passion, the rise of affection for AI chatbots reminds us that love knows no bounds, even through a digital screen. As humans explore the complex landscapes of the heart, one thing is clear: in the realm of love, anything is possible. 


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