Giving someone the cold shoulder might be the easiest way to fend off someone's unwanted admirations, but it isn't exactly the classiest. Burner, an app that lets users create temporary phone numbers so they can keep their own number private, now comes with a bot that will automatically reply to people who just can't take a hint.
While the advent of online dating has made it easier to screen potential love interests without actually meeting them, things can still get awkward if you change your mind about a person post-rendezvous – especially if their eagerness gets a bit too much to bear.
Rather than straight out ignoring them – known as "ghosting" – the aptly-named Ghostbot will handle texts from jilted dates for you with a series of non-committal responses – the idea being that they will eventually get the message and move on. The bot has been designed to understand different tones and intentions of messages, meaning it can determine a "let's do something" invitation, a pick-up line, booty call or lewd comment, and will respond with varying levels of tact, humour or straight-up dismissal.
For example, when Ghostbot sees an incoming text from a person who has been ghosted it will reply with responses like "nope," "I just have no time right now," "sorry, I'm just completely overwhelmed with work," or "sorry, just me and [pizza emoji] tonight" – the last one we can totally relate to.
The bot can be assigned to any number created within the Burner app, which is currently only available in the United States. The creators of the app have welcomed developers to create their own bots and extensions for the service using the app's open Burner Connections platform.
Will Carter, co-founder of Ghostbot creator Ad Hoc Labs, said: "Texting is a fun, convenient, and regular part of dating culture these days. But we've heard from many of our users – and we know from public conversation and the surging popularity of social media communities...that unwanted, aggressive, and even sexually harassing texts are a real and growing problem.
"In contrast to bot-of-the-day strategies that seem to be popping up everywhere, this is not just another way to order a pizza, call an Uber, or "join the conversation" with your favourite millennial-targeted brand. Apps on Burner work for the user.
"We think Ghostbot is just a small taste of what's possible when intelligent agents are embedded into smarter communication tools."