Two guys approached me in a cafe at the weekend, wanting to ask my opinion about their new virtual dating app, Say Something. I must have looked so lonely in Costa with my Kindle and black coffee.
Their application is designed to let you practise chat up lines on your phone with other users, advancing if they like your charm. There are 15 levels set in different scenarios, like, it turns out, a café.
The idea, they said, is not that you should meet any of the people you chat with; rather you just practise on them. I found this interesting for two reasons.
First it means that they suspect the allure of chatting to a real person with a real profile pic is enough to elevate the app above a robot programme running a flirting algorithm.
This isn’t new, men use premium rate sex lines after all, and none are manned by robots. Different motivations mind you.
This leads to the second point of interest and my big doubt. Say Something may struggle because of how it’s being presented as a training ground.
People don’t use social media to simulate reality or augment it. Social media are a part of reality for users.The urges and emotions that govern their use are real and online communities are built on real human interactions.
Emotions and the desire to interact could make such an app successful, but framing it as an artificial simulation could be misunderstanding users’ motivations and risks creating a flaw that didn’t need to exist.