Am I Doing This Right?: An iPhone App to Troubleshoot Your Dates

Am I Doing This Right?: An iPhone App to Troubleshoot Your Dates

Can technology improve your chances of hitting it off with a date?

Written by Michael Thomsen (@mike_thomsen)


It may be inevitable that camera mounted drones soar above us while our web searches, messages, and geo-tracked movements are ensnared in some evil server farm co-owned by the U.S. government, Google, and Coca Cola, but as long as we can identify these as negatives, they can be tolerated. Yet, the more fearsome aspect of this future would not be its imposition against our will but that it would come as a result of invitation, an unintended consequence of our seeking to meet some need we worried would be unable to address on our own.

Dating is one act where it's difficult to escape the needful suspicion that you could be doing something better, that your instincts are not quite good enough for the task of falling in love. Earlier this month Lauren McCarthy announced a prototype for a phone app she's devised to help uncertain daters navigate the awkward encounters of first dates, mostly arranged through online services.

 

The app is called Social Turkers and basically turns one's phone into a live streaming device for a group of freelance romantic consultants to provide feedback to the nervous dater in the form of text messages. 

 

The app is called Social Turkers and basically turns one's phone into a live streaming device for a group of freelance romantic consultants to provide feedback to the nervous dater in the form of text messages. In McCarthy's prototype, a number of anonymous workers from Amazon's Mechanical Turk service are paid $0.25 to listen in and comment. An average date during McCarthy's testing drew on approximately 60 different workers, who provided general feedback like helping to interpret her date's general interest to suggesting lines like "You remind me of my father. Wanna make out?" or "Why did you move to Portland?"

The app may seem like bizarre excess, a technological solution that introduces far more complexity and unreliability than it resolves, but the pathos of its creator should not be alien to most people. The idea of a date depends on romantic love being viewed as a scarce commodity. If a date goes poorly, the earnest romancer will feel at a loss, having invested their best effort into an event that produced neither intimacy nor sex. The precious evening is considered a waste, and the cause of its loss is internalized as a personal failure.

To address all our romantic and social inadequacies, we'd turned to best friends and trusted ambassadors from the desired sex to help evaluate events in retrospect, troubleshooting bad practices and planning long-term strategies that might lead to more frequent access to the beloved scarce commodity. This creates a basic and inescapable loop that says if we were more skillful the thing we desire most would be everywhere.  The ironic response to this pressure is to further withdraw, exacerbating the romantic or intimate scarcity for everyone else.

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