A rise in digisexuality: what is the future of online dating?

Caroline Allen
Contributor
To identify as digisexual, you might be attracted to digital created people or sex robots. [Photo: Getty]

There was a time in the past when meeting somebody online seemed like an impossibility.

Before the internet, it would have been hard to explain to somebody that one day speaking to another person through technology would be a regular occurrence.

Now, meeting somebody online has become commonplace.

So commonplace, in fact, that experts are looking to the future of online dating and the digital world and seeing a rise in digisexuality.

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What does being ‘digisexual’ mean?

Digisexuals are attracted to digital images conjured up by technology and virtual reality.

This might include sex robots, AI, or digitally produced images, such as holograms. Digisexuals are turning to technology to take the place of a human partner.

Social media platforms have allowed us to see into the lives of people we don’t know and to form attractions based on the snippets of information they provide us on their feeds.

Since the internet, a new level of hysteria around celebrities has been born, because for the first time ever we get a behind the scenes look into their lives.

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A rise in digitally-created robots

This behaviour has proven that physical proximity is not required in order for us to feel affection towards somebody.

In turn, this has led to a rise in robots on Instagram.

Take Bermuda for example. At first glance, you might think that she’s just like us.

There’s a catch though. She’s not real.

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She has 136,000 followers. Her virtual friend, Lil Miquela, has 1.6 million followers.

Even though their profiles state ‘robot’, it doesn’t stop people from commenting on their posts as if they were real people.

One user wrote: “How do you stay so skinny, girl? You’re perfect and I’m jealous.”

“Dye your hair back pink, it was such a cute colour on you.” Another wrote.

The future of digital relationships

Deputy Editor of ProPrivacy.com, Jo O’Reilly, reminds us that when Match.com was launched in beta back in 1995, the concept of online dating was seen as a “niche interest”.

Fast forward 24 years, and the landscape of online dating has evolved way beyond predictions.

Digital relationships aren’t just limited to attraction or sexualisation, either.

“In many ways, robot-human relationships are also becoming the norm. Plenty of us have welcomed AI into our homes in the guise of Siri and Alexa. Outside of the home, AI is beginning to replace service workers as chatbots, driverless cars or room-service robots.” O’Reilly explains.

“As technology improves and AI becomes able to learn from and better mimic humans, and humans continue to show signs of being able to empathise with robotic forms, it seems entirely likely that the relationship between humans and robots will become closer, and more intimate.”

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The stigma of robot-human relationships

It’s believed that there are many people in the world who identify themselves as digisexual, but with a new community comes new challenges.

Psychotherapist, Christine Elvin, explains how to break down the barriers around this stigma.

“There are a number of ethical issues to consider, some of which digisexuals will no doubt have to face.”

“Ultimately, it’s important that we begin the conversation to ensure that people aren’t feeling alone or marginalised because of their beliefs.”

The ethical issues to consider pertain more specifically to sex robots. How will the rise in AI and robot relationships impact their human creators?

It’s an issue that O’Reilly can foresee, too: “If human-machine relations are inevitable, so too are the potential risks.”

“If AI begins to learn what makes you tick, it has the potential to begin storing and processing incredible amounts of extremely intimate data. You could end up with a literal love machine with a blueprint to your entire sexual and emotional identity.”

It then raises a much larger question of the GDPR around human-robot relationships and the need to legislate that data.

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