Sophia, a 29-year-old marketing executive*, announced during a recent therapy session that she was quitting dating. For the last month, she had been messaging daily with Josh, an attractive, witty, charming, and smart guy she met on a dating app. She looked forward to his messages and fantasized about what they might do together when they met. In their most recent text exchange, she had asked Josh again about getting together. He promised they would meet in real life but didn’t text back the following day. It had been a week since she last heard from him. He had ghosted her, leaving her confused, rejected, and sad.
Like Sophia, many people use dating apps. 48.2% of Americans are single. Of those, 53% of people under 30 use dating apps to find potential partners. Online dating makes it easier to meet potential dates, but there are problems with online dating. One of the biggest challenges with online dating is that it often feels like a frustrating, part-time job. Sure, there are many potential people to meet, but up to 50% of matches don’t message back, and some lie about their situation, age, and appearance, posting outdated pictures. Some people are scam artists too. The FBI received 15,000 dating app scam complaints.
Unfortunately, Sophia’s experience isn’t unique. Disappearing dating suitors is common, with 80% of single millennials reporting they have been ghosted. The problem with ghosting is that it leaves people in worse mental states than when they started dating. People have no idea why they were rejected and often mistakenly assume it is because they are fundamentally flawed. This can lead to feelings of despair. It isn’t surprising that feelings of loneliness and depression are linked to dating app use.
Dating and maintaining relationships can be very challenging. No one comes with an owner’s manual. Even the most enlightened and insightful people react emotionally to situations that don’t warrant the reaction. When dating and in relationships, all of our past wounds appear. They show up in the form of us being too defended, so we don’t let others in, or in blind trust where we let people in too quickly. We all have unique wounds, and our dating partners have theirs, so it is easy to get lost and confused.
Most people want to meet an intimate partner and have a fulfilling relationship. But more often than not, that requires a great deal of self-knowledge and good relationship skills. Yet there is no way to practice important dating skills like flirting, communicating your needs and wants, effective fighting, and conflict resolution in a safe space without fear of rejection or embarrassment. Studies have shown that rejection-sensitive people are more likely to use dating apps, so having an opportunity to practice in a low-stakes environment can be relevant.
We created Blush so people can have intimate dating adventures while practicing skills and receiving insight into why people do what they do. We created the AI characters with the help of a therapist with over 30 years of experience, so they are realistic and engaging. All the characters have their backstory and traumas, which reveal themselves during the dating and relationship process. We hope that people will feel less pressure and anxiety when interacting with AI-generated characters and get greater insight into the dynamics behind the chat.
On Blush, people choose partners, flirt, go on virtual dates, experience intimate moments, and build relationships. Unlike dating apps, people can access tips throughout the process to learn what is working and what isn’t and better understand why their partner is reacting the way they are. This process helps users gain the confidence and skills to show up more authentically in real-life relationships.
We hope that Blush can provide people with a space to experiment to better understand what works for them. That way, they may feel more comfortable in navigating complicated dating scenarios like the one Sophia had to face. If Sophia tries the Blush app, she might better understand what happened with Josh, which could help her the next time to either avoid people like him or respond differently.