Sloth poop? Really?
For the record, I don't own socks with sloths on them. Argyle patterns? Stripes? Absolutely. I have three pairs with the CNET logo on them. But no sloths.
ChatGPT thinks I might, though, and it also thinks this fact could get me matches on Hinge, or Bumble, or any dating app that has the audacity to ask me for a random fact about myself.
Here's a random fact about me: When I tested how ChatGPT might handle rewriting my dating app profile, the experimental AI chatbot tried to turn me into a cringey manic pixie dream girl who forgets to water her "jungle" of houseplants, dances to her favorite "tunes" and is looking for "a fellow weirdo" to go on *shudders* "adventures" with.
In the last few months, humanity has been discovering the capabilities of AI tools with a fast-churning mix of horror and fascination. Art created by artificial intelligence is so cool -- except maybe it rips off human artists. ChatGPT can write songs, but does that mean creativity no longer lives in the penthouse of a building the robots don't have the keycard to?
When I first read a PR pitch mentioning ChatGPT could be used to write bios and answer prompts on dating apps, I casually quipped into the void, "But of course." Then I started wondering what kind of dater AI could be. Could I create the world's most effective dating profile via the power of machine learning?
I set to work crafting prompts, starting simple, then goading ChatGPT toward increasing chaos.
Prompt: "Write a 500-character dating app bio for a woman who likes music, books and houseplants."
Answer: "Music lover, bookworm, and proud plant parent. I spend my free time singing along to my favorite tunes, diving into the latest bestseller, and tending to my ever-growing collection of houseplants. Seeking someone who shares my passions and is ready to join me on spontaneous adventures, cozy nights in, and trips to the local nursery. Let's swap book and album recommendations while sipping coffee and discussing our favorite genres. Bonus points if you have a green thumb!"
Gross. An exclamation point? In a bio?! I would never.
Prompt: Write a funny one-sentence response to the dating app prompt: "My zombie apocalypse plan is..."
Answer: "My zombie apocalypse plan is to teach the zombies the cha-cha slide, because you can never have too much cardio in a crisis."
I stared at the response. It's a little funny. Cardio in a crisis? Is that from something? Does ChatGPT understand the underlying absurdity?
I tried to inject some subtlety and subtext.
Prompt: "Write an opener message for a dating app but don't ask the person out on a date yet. You've just watched the most recent episode of The Last of Us and are feeling emotionally vulnerable."
Hey, if Bill could booby trap his soulmate in the middle of a fungal apocalypse, maybe there's still hope for everyone else.
Answer: "Hey there! I just finished watching the most recent episode of The Last of Us and I'm feeling a little emotional. I couldn't help but notice we both enjoy the game. Want to commiserate about the ups and downs of the post-apocalyptic world and all the feels it brings?"
Can you wince yourself out of existence like the last twinkle of light from a star that died eons ago?
Then I asked ChatGPT if it believed in life after love.
The worst offender of them all sent a spidering splinter through my soul within the first two words.
Prompt: Write a funny opener message for a dating app but don't ask the person out on a date yet. The person shares your interest in cats and indie music.
Answer: "Meow there! I couldn't help but notice our shared love for cats and indie music from the 2010s. I have a feeling we could spend hours talking about our favorite fur babies and debating the best album from Fleet Foxes. Want to join forces and start our own feline-friendly indie band?"
Meow there. MEOW THERE? If someone sent that greeting to me, I would delete the entire dating app, put my phone in a plastic bag, pitch it as far as possible into the depths of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository and spend the rest of my life training pigeons to deliver hard copies of memes to my friends.
In an effort to process my feelings, I called TikToker Amelia Samson. Samson makes TikToks about the chemical fire that is modern dating and particularly about the mind-bendingly strange and offensive profiles floating around on The Apps. She gives voice to the rage-swaddled disbelief you feel every time someone writes "just ask" in their bio.
"Oh no," she said, when I read the "meow there" response to her over the phone, "ChatGPT is like the cringiest guy you've ever dated."
There was so much to unpack. Could it be OK to use material from ChatGPT as long as it's accurate and you just need some help packaging what you want to say about yourself? Do other daters need to know you used ChatGPT? (I'd sure want to know.) What happens if you start talking about cha-cha sliding with zombies on your profile but can't muster that level of quirk in real life?
"I think that there are ways to use it, especially for dating apps and writing things about yourself that are honest and make sense," Samson said, "[but] as it keeps progressing, and growing and getting smarter, people could start to abuse it, and that's what I think is so scary about it."
Dating apps already struggle with problems like filters, bots and catfishing. The Federal Trade Commission reported that people lost $547 million to romance-based scams in 2021. And even if some hopeful dater with a ChatGPT account isn't trying to get you to pay for his pet iguana's surgery, misrepresentation is an age-old problem in the dating world.
The jig is up, folks. You never finished reading Infinite Jest.
Once upon a time, fibbing about yourself would take some creativity. With ChatGPT, I didn't have to use any of my own brainpower to invent false details about myself. It supplied me with a fictional expert knowledge of Asian street foods, a penchant for crying in the car to Everybody Hurts by R.E.M., and a story about getting lost in Tuscany and ending up on a goat farm.
"[It's] taking a lot of the legwork out of creating the lie," Samson said.
If this sounds like handwringing, well, we all have our hobbies.
I reached out to Bumble and OkCupid to see how aware apps like them are of this particular use of AI.
Bumble said it's keeping an eye on the development of AI, broadly, and how it could affect both its community and business. "We are always reviewing the latest technology in consideration of what might make sense to add to our product," a spokesperson said via email.
OkCupid said it got ChatGPT to write some questions to ask daters, like what they most value in a partner or how they like to spend the weekend.
WooPlus, a dating app for plus-size daters, added a ChatGPT help button people can use when they need assistance responding to messages from potential matches. Message interaction rose 200% as a result of the feature, according to a blog post, but the app but also acknowledged some users said they felt deceived by the idea.
But at least for now, there might be some hope for those concerned about the intersection of AI and dating: There's no way the squirming enthusiasm of some of these prompts could nab a match. After we talked, Samson asked ChatGPT for a fun animal fact -- the kind you might use in a prompt, and it gave her an answer about how sloths (again with the sloths!) poop.
"Did you know sloths only defecate once a week and the feces they produce are so large they can be up to a third of the sloth's body weight?"
ChatGPT wasn't done playing Casanova.
"Dating me is like getting a front-row ticket to a non-stop, heart-pumping thrill ride full of laughter, sparkling conversation, and spontaneous kisses."
"One thing you should know about me is that I have a tendency to burst into spontaneous interpretive dance at inappropriate times, but that's just how I express my joy."
"...I can recite every line from The Office."
Yes, friends. From the vast vats of data ChatGPT is pulling from, simmering with all the pop culture references imaginable -- of all TV shows that have sent wavelengths of light and sound at our faces since Philo Farnsworth dreamed of transmitting images in horizontal lines across receivers while plowing a potato field -- this advanced AI collapsed back in on itself like every other bored online dater out there.
Prompt: Write a snarky one-sentence kicker ending for a commentary piece about how bad ChatGPT is at writing dating profiles.
Answer: "Looks like ChatGPT is better at generating responses than generating romance."
Editors' note: CNET is using an AI engine to create some personal finance explainers that are edited and fact-checked by our editors. For more, see this post.