Outsourcing Romance

Evan Selinger reports at Wired on BroApp, which helps you manage relationships by sending automated messages to the object of your eternal devotion.

BroApp’s creators describe it as “a ‘clever relationship wingman’ (their words) that sends ‘automated daily text messages’ to your significant other. It offers the promise of ‘maximizing’ romantic connection through ‘seamless relationship outsourcing.’”

The app “not only sends scheduled texts, but comes preloaded with 12 messages to help users get started. The developers also took steps to conceal the automation going on behind the scenes; in places designated ‘no bro zones,’ the app is automatically disabled. (After all, the jig is up if your girlfriend received an automatic text from you while you’re at her place.) The app even has a rating system that lowers the risk of the same message being sent too frequently.”

Selinger admits that BroApp might be a parody, but he’s still concerned that the sorts of assumptions that justify BroApp are widely held in the tech world and among the general public. Assumptions like: “If a smart yet inexpensive piece of technology can take some of life’s burdensome weight off our shoulders, isn’t it irrational — an outdated sense of humans-are-better-than-machines pride — to avoid accepting assistance that leads to better sleeping, eating, working, exercising, and even loving?” Or: It may seem odd at first, but we’ll get used to it. 

Selinger argues that this sort of relationship technology plays loose with moral standards: “They take situations where people make commitments to be honest and sincere, but treat those underlying moral values as irrelevant — or, worse, as obstacles to be overcome.” Perhaps just as dangerously, it smoothes out the difficult business of actual friendships, romances, family relations. BroApp “glosses over the non-linear, tricky negotiations and nuances of relationships,” and it’s this tricky negotiation that makes human relationships human.

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