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The Outsourced Lover
Evan Selinger   Feb 14, 2014   The Atlantic  

Why an app that reminds you to text your partner might not be the best idea. If you’re looking to add a digital spark to your relationship this Valentine’s Day, you can download the new app Romantimatic. Romantimatic will send you scheduled reminders to contact your significant other and give you pre-set messages to fire off. The pre-set messages include simple, straightforward classics like “I love you” and “I miss you.”

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Or maybe that doesn’t sound appealing. It sure doesn’t to me. In that case, I recommend you follow my lead: Take a solemn oath before the Greek god Eros and vow to never, ever go this far down the outsourced sentiment rabbit hole.
Romantimatic’s first suggested text: “My phone told me I should tell you that I love you.”

If my warning rings hollow and you believe—like a writer over at Wired does—that the app is a valid “last resort,” keep in mind Romantimatic offers its own recommendation. It comes loaded with a single but highly revealing “pro-tip”: “Maybe don’t mention that you’re using an app to remind you to express your affection.”

Nothing says ‘here are my deepest and most sincere feelings’ like a warning label highlighting the scheduled and mechanical nature of ‘your’ sentiments! So perhaps also you shouldn’t use the pre-set message that contradicts it and states: “My phone told me I should tell you that I love you.”

If you’re in my corner, on the other hand, and find the service morally suspect, be heartened by the fact that we’re not alone. Others are also off-put by the digital ventriloquism. They see it as a romance killer and a test for “failed human beings.” They wonder whether such a shallow service is a spoof, art house project, or prank. Over at Elle, the gendered assessment renders a clear verdict: Guys deserve more credit than being viewed as so oblivious that they need an app that prompts them to say nice things.   

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Evan Selinger is Associate Professor of Philosophy and MAGIC Center Head of Research Communications, Community & Ethics, both at Rochester Institute of Technology. Evan publishes extensively in the areas of philosophy of technology, privacy, and ethics/policy of science and technology. To enhance public debate about ethics, Evan regularly supplements his peer-reviewed scholarship with outreach articles in places like The AtlanticWiredSlateForbes,The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.



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