AI’s Influence Is Growing In The Dating World. Will It Connect Us, Or Divide Us?

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Ask any single person and they’ll tell you, straight up, that dating sucks. These days it’s mainly done online, with singles perusing through a sea of endless profiles in hopes they’ll find the one. For the past decade, dating has relied on technology as the number one tool used to search for love with Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge reigning supreme. Now, we’re onto a new technological chapter in the world of love: artificial intelligence.
When you think of artificial intelligence, also known as AI, especially in the realm of dating, your mind might go to computers that gain consciousness à la Her. In reality, that’s not the case — at least not yet. AI is already being used in the apps we know and (kind of) love: it’s what gives you your “most compatible” matches and what shows your profile to prospective lovers. But now, it’s infiltrating our lives even more thanks to the explosion that occurred when ChatGPT was released to the world.
Take Iris Dating. Unlike more well-known apps that show users an endless stream of profiles, Iris takes it a step further and uses artificial intelligence to only show who you have a high percentage of mutual attraction with — meaning you’re more likely to match with the specific profiles you see — in the hopes of curbing “swipe burnout,” according to Igor Khalatian, PhD, CEO and founder of the app. When you first sign up, the app shows you a number of stock images that you swipe on so they learn what kind of person you’re attracted to. Over time, the app continues to get to know what you find attractive based on your swipes, creating a more curated stream of potential matches and eliminating the paradox of choice that comes along with other apps. Iris also utilises ChatGPT to help users create intriguing bios and come up with opening lines, adding even more AI to the overall experience.
Similarly, the team at Elate, a dating app, has created Dara, an AI-powered dating coach to supplement users' swipe experience. You can ask Dara what the best opening line would be on a dating app, and how to answer a difficult question your match might pose — it’ll even give you first date ideas for you and your match to head out on. The AI dating coach can even tell you whether or not your profile is “good,” and can give suggestions on which photos to swap out. “[Dara] will make sure that you've got a sharp headshot, a photo that's a full length, a photo that shows one bit more of your personality,” Sanjay Panchal, founder of Dara and Elate, tells Refinery29. They’re hoping to change the game when it comes to AI and dating. “The idea is that [Dara] will help with the entire relationship journey, everything from using dating apps and finding a match to navigating tricky talking stages to organising dates,” Panchal says.
This kind of tech is something that Amir Tarighat, co-founder and CEO of Agency, a cybersecurity company, calls generative AI. “It's not focused on analysis of decisions and recommendations, it's focused on actually generating content,” he says. “It could be texts, it could be images, it could be video. There's a whole bunch of high-quality generative AI models now, which have been around for a long time, but finally, they're usable.”
Technology has given us a lot in love — easier access to people and faster ways to communicate, for example. But after more than a decade of swiping, the dating app fatigue is real. Constantly matching, messaging, meeting, ghosting, and being disappointed can take a toll on daters everywhere. Apps are feeling the push to evolve, and a more personalised, tailored experience from utilising artificial intelligence might be the answer. But as AI’s influence grows and infiltrates our lives in deeper ways, is it going to help us form more meaningful relationships? Or harm us along the way? 
Panchal says he launched Elate when he saw how frustrating using dating apps were for those looking for a serious relationship. “The long-term vision for Elate was always to be something more than just a dating app, something that could be useful beyond just matching with [others]. And that's effectively what Dara is helping to achieve,” he says. “With how complicated modern relationships and dating is, having to juggle multiple different dating apps, trying to arrange dates and make it through the talking stages, we wanted to create something that helped along the entire journey. This version that we've just launched is a free test version to allow people to kind of try it out, see what they think, and also help us better understand the sorts of questions and help that people want from a system like this.”
It’s hard to ignore the Black Mirror vibes of it all, especially when it comes to an algorithm telling you what your opening line should be or what to say when there’s a disagreement between you and who you’re dating. It’s also hard to ignore that anything man-made will also come along with man’s biases, meaning that an algorithm’s outcome will reflect the prejudices of those who created them. The reasons for AI bias can be wide-ranging, according to Tarighat. It can be everything from how the AI is built to what kind of data is used for training it. “And that could mean the people who pick what to train it on are biased, or unintentionally biased, about what data they select, or the data itself can be biased. That's one side of it,” he says. “The other side of it is, you can have these user-generated feedback loops in the training — you see some of this in TikTok — where the underlying technology may not be biased in some cases, but the way that users give it inputs for it to train on, you could have this negative behaviour that users do on en masse that can cause a biased outcome.”
While bias is an issue in any kind of AI technology, another issue is whether or not it’s necessarily ethical for an algorithm to be able to communicate for you when it comes to dating. “When we’re using [AI] to simulate a human experience, we actually are blocking so much intimacy,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, LMFT, an in-house expert at Paired, an app that helps foster conversations between couples. “Between me and you, we’re growing as humans in this conversation right now. And when we replace the conversation with AI, we essentially stop growing. Now, I’m growing with the AI — I’m not growing with you.”
On the other hand, though, creating broader access to these kinds of resources such as dating coaches or relationship tips is a good thing — people who usually have access to experts like that often have money they can spend on those things. “I mean, our technology cannot guarantee that you will get married and live happily ever after,” Khalatian says. “But what it does is it gives you an astronomical advantage.”
The positive spin here, DeGeare says, is that the use of this kind of AI can help us get out of our own way — even when we’re choosing our own photos for our profiles. “Most of us, even those in therapy doing all this work, have a really false sense of who we are, and we’re presenting a version of ourselves through a lens of our insecurities,” she says. “The algorithm might actually be able to present a version of you that is no more or less authentic, it just might not include so many of your insecurities.”
We’ve still got a long way to go in AI development before we can say its entrance into our dating lives is good or bad. “We're in the first steps of it becoming mainstream and it's going to take a really long time before it gets robust and secure and thought about from a technological perspective, from a compliance perspective, from a legal perspective,” says Tarighat. “I think it's just not fleshed out yet.”
DeGeare is hopeful for the future of technology’s role in relationships. “I’m not saying AI’s the next big thing… but there's something about the relationship space evolving that I really like,” she says. “I think in therapy we just keep going back to the same dead white men, we keep going back to the same books and principles, and then people pepper in a newly coined term that lasts for six months and then dies off. People are so hungry to really understand how we connect and how we belong.” DeGeare laughs and asks whether or not there’s a relationship equivalent to the calculator. “We got so much better at math when we had computers. Is something out there that can really help us understand how to belong together in a better way?”
For now, that part is unclear, but as AI use becomes more intertwined with our lives, we might just find out.
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