May 6, 2014
Recently, CNN published an opinion article written by Evan Selinger, an associate professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, about outsourcing of certain activities, namely online dating profiles. There is a website called Personal Dating Assistants where men pay “wingmen” to act as online personal assistants for online dating. Basically, these personal dating assistants take over the online dating profile of the customer to “pimp profiles, locate prospects and ghostwrite correspondences.”
Critics have used words like creepy, big fakes, and human trash to describe this and those who would partake in such activity. I can’t say that I disagree, though human trash is a bit harsh. It seems like a lazy way to online date not to mention manipulative and untruthful. If I were told by an online potential date that he had not been the one communicating with me, and he had not been the one to manage the upkeep of his profile, I would be appalled. First, I would not be able to trust the man who hired someone to online date for him which would mean that the dating would not go further. Second, I would feel totally manipulated. Plus, it is incredibly deceptive. Dating is hard enough, so why make it harder?
The outsourcing of online dating minimizes the importance of getting to know someone. It makes it more business like and less personal. Dating is about getting to know someone personally. How can that happen if another is manning the online profile?
Selinger identifies other areas where people have outsourced that may not be for the best. One such area is with thank-you notes. Already we can use robots to write these notes. This is also an area where outsourcing is not the best idea. The whole point of thank-you notes is to express to others our gratitude. If we are not really writing these, then that could potentially diminish the impact. Moreover, robot-written thank-you notes definitely take away some of the personal in the thank you.
Another example of technology-based outsourcing that may not be as positive is an app that sends automated text messages to people we love. As the CNN article says, “If you only think of a lover because your phone prompts you to, maybe you’re just not that into your lover.” If I found out my partner sent me auto texts, I know my feelings would be hurt. I would feel like I was an obligation as opposed to a desire. I imagine that I am probably not the only person who would have such a reaction.
The CNN opinion piece explains that outsourcing is tricky because it is not all negative. Take, for instance, a calendar whether it is an electronic one or a print one. We fill in our responsibilities and obligations on these to help us remember what and where we need to be as well as to help us organize. This is outsourcing that is beneficial.
However, outsourcing things like online dating profiles, thank-you notes, and auto-texts definitely seem less sincere and engaging. These do not exhibit much care nor much character. In fact, one could argue that these three forms of outsourcing show a lack of care and lack of character.
It is good sometimes to take time out and do something ourselves. The CNN article ends with some inspiring words to this end:
“To embrace the values and develop the virtues that make human life meaningful, we shouldn’t delegate away conscientiousness, independent thinking, self-control, and a host of other crucial abilities. Yes, to be human is to outsource. But we should not outsource to the extent that we erase our humanity.”
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