The modern-day dating scene is a hellscape of endless swipes, misleading profiles, and unrealistic expectations. It's also a lot of work, especially when you're trying to gently end the unwanted advances of a fleeting fling. Those "I'm just not that into you" texts are painfully awkward, but ghosting is just mean, right? Good news, you cowards: a team of intrepid developers just launched Ghostbot, a chatbot that will text back and forth with your failed suitors for you until they get the hint.
Ghostbot is the latest project from Burner, an app that creates temporary numbers that you can give to your Tinder matches, Airbnb guests, and any other randos you don't want to give your actual number to. Once you activate Ghostbot for a specific contact, it will respond to their texts with (mostly) graceful excuses as to why you can't hang out or aren't interested.
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The bot can detect the tone of text messages, so it will respond appropriately to a straight-up booty call versus a polite "let's do something" invitation. The developers teamed up with a screenwriter to come up with responses that are conversational and funny, so the recipient hopefully doesn't catch wind that they're talking to a robot. Plus, the exchanges are timed differently; sometimes Ghostbot replies right away, sometimes it will take a few hours, so it feels like a more natural conversation.
The exchanges will continue in a cyclical fashion -- as the bot casually peppers in "humor, effective disengagement tactics, and a touch of artistry" -- until the other person gets the hint and quits texting. The best part is that you can sit back and let the bot do the dirty work -- you won't get bothered with alerts or see how the conversation's going unless you want to check in.
Step 1: Establish a temporary phone number using the Burner app, then share this number instead of your actual number with potential dates going forward.
Step 2: Tether your new Burner number with the Ghostbot using this site.
Step 3: If and when you're ready to end things with your bad date, hit up the Burner app, find the particular contact you'd like to fade away, and click the slider to "Ghosting."
Step 4: If you feel like checking in on how things are you going at any point, just open up the conversation in the Burner app. Otherwise, you won't be notified when a new message is received unless you've enabled push notifications.
I tried it out for fun briefly with a co-worker, and it seemed to work as promised. Ghostbot gently demurred her polite advances each time with excuses, replying not immediately but within a few minutes or up to an hour later -- just like an actual human might.
So what does this mean for the future of online dating? Even Ghostbot's developers aren't so sure. Right now it's mostly an experiment they describe as part art project and part practical solution. Even though a bot-filled future may be inevitable, I move to keep dating out of it. It's one thing to bear with the headaches of matchmaking apps and sites when you know there's a human on the other end, but it'd be downright soul-crushing to have to wonder whether you just got dumped by a robot.
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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. He ain't afraid of no ghost.