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An App to Help With Small Talk?

(The Root) — I am a lot of things, but shy has never been one of them. Introducing myself to someone or making conversation is not something that makes me melt into a puddle of social anxiety. But for many people, the thought of coming up with interesting small talk is the same as standing in front of a firing squad. And I can't even imagine by how much the discomfort must be multiplied on a date. But as with most things these days, technology has come up with a way to help.

Social Turkers, developed by Lauren McCarthy, is currently in beta testing. The idea uses Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing service that allows you to farm out small tasks that require a real human to complete, such as transcribing audio recordings. Using this service, McCarthy was able to get instant suggestions and immediate feedback while she was on an actual date.


During the date, McCarthy used her smartphone to broadcast video and audio to the Turkers in real time. She set up polls that the Turkers could answer ("How do you think it's going?"); they wrote reviews based on what they observed, and they sent her text messages with suggestions on what she could say or do next while she was on the date. Basically, McCarthy was able to set up a "virtual wingman" to help her better engage as the date progressed.

I can only try to understand the sometimes paralyzing fear that people may have interacting with others, and it could be of comfort knowing that someone is out there to help. And if the dates I've seen recently at my local Applebee's are any indication, it's not completely out of the question these days to see one or both people on their smartphones at some point. So what's the harm in trying to make the date a little more interesting? An app is on the way, but the question is, would you use it?


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