The Bumble Bot

It is strange to start writing a blog with the second post. But this incident being more recent has been on my mind. As I write, the events surrounding this incident are still unravelling, and I want to wait and watch what happens. An updated part two will be in order.

Anyway - this story begins as most stories do, with me being bored on a weekend. And to cure the boredom, I solicited advice from a friend who has been busy on his new escapade - Bumble. For those who are unfamiliar, Bumble (for the most part) is a standard run-of-the-mill dating app. You make a profile with pictures of yourself. So do many strangers who make profiles of themselves. Triggering an endless chain of people that you swipe on, and if you both swipe (right = approval) on each other, you match and have a little chat to evolve the conversation elsewhere.

I had done this before and was rather unamused by the whole process the first time around. This time, though, I went in with a different intent. Not to find a date but rather to experience the app itself. To break the app akin to a speedrunner with hacks and gimmicks to see how far I could push it and what I could learn from this process. I sound relatively high and mighty saying, “What I can learn from this process”, but an accurate representation would be to test these assumptions at my earliest convenience - a shenanigan if I were being precise.

Part 1: Make a fake profile

Fake Profile Image

Right, so hack one. What's up with profiles? I think profiles, for the most part, are rather superficial, but research never hurts. To check out what I’m up against, I made a fake profile of a woman and swiped on a few men. I do have to be honest; I am genuinely disappointed. I am also convinced folks, not just men, but also women will SWIPE ON ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING.

Not as terrible, but Jesus, the profiles are all the same. A bro picture, a picture with a friend, another at the gym perhaps (Probably shirtless) and depending on your breed of bro, either he has a giant fish, a car or hikes. It is strange because it feels so optimised as the best man attractor profile, catering deeply to the male gaze. I could see myself hanging out with them, but being involved romantically was so far off that I couldn't process the thought. Moreover, it felt rather strange as some of them texted the fake AI-generated profile of me as a woman. Now I wouldn't say they were creepy - but lame as all hell. I noticed the things I didn't like personally - “Do you have snap - or IG”. Can you please make a joke and then transition into another thought? Many notes were taken about what I was not supposed to do - (knowing fully well when the time came, I would behave exactly like my brethren whom I mock).

This brings me to my first rabbit hole. I recently read about the male and female gaze, and sitting with this idea, I think I’ve realised at least a salient aspect of the app. Maybe it's internalised misogyny manifested on the app - but the profiles of cis women optimise for the male gaze. Full body pictures - a beach picture with sorta feels out of place with her friends etc. But the male profiles are also optimised for men - they are the perfect profiles to find like a cool guy to hang out with. There was this rather good-looking man - I assume his hobby was woodworking because he was building a table, and that perhaps was among the few ones that stood out to me and excited me a little. There is a more significant issue at play here, though. Because I dug a little deeper and found this article (I am generalising to this one, but they all seem totally the same.)

If you read it, it is a sort of celebration of the self - you do you while being polite - very cool. I’ve also recently come across this body of thought called the lesbian continuity - which refers to (paraphrasing) That one of the first people we as kids learn to love is our mother (This is like an updated, more recent version of one of Freud's, I think). And for men, that translates very well to heterosexuality, but for women, heterosexuality is sort of a relearning of the self. But it seems odd that in this playing field, the women are expected to appease the male gaze, but the male gaze itself is self-celebration. Not sure where this is going. It just didn't feel very just. Also, I think it would be way more successful if you just optimised for the female gaze as a man, no? (from the lesbian continuity thing). A particular quote by Marylin Frye come’s to mind :

“To say that straight men are heterosexual is only to say that they engage in sex (fucking exclusively with the other sex, i.e., women). All or almost all of that which pertains to love, most straight men reserve exclusively for other men. … ”

Part 2: Automate Everything

Okay, so step two. Make a profile that's not me in the sense of a bro, which is easy. I will experiment with this profile, so keeping personal information low would be the best way to structure the profile. Hence I decided to go with an among-us-themed profile. Here are the screenshots from the profile. This is a terrible profile because it has one picture of me - I do not think anyone would swipe on this, given that that singular picture is also my linked-in picture, and anyone could have taken it from there too. This brings up an unusual issue I shall discuss later in the success section. Although I was later informed by a few of my Matches that my profile shows up as me and then when you swipe it all becomes among us - I guess this is a bug that exists on bumble that can be exploited.

Profile on bumble

Regardless, I am considering posting a picture of me as a Jojo character to see where that takes me.

Next is understanding what is going on with Bumble. I want to get into the details of the Algorithm, which is the stable marriage algorithm by Gale and Shapely, but a detailed math lesson is impossible; I may elaborate later. Here is a video though to figure out whats happening ( Lec 7 | MIT 6.042J Mathematics for Computer Science, Fall 2010 ) But having studied this algorithm, one quickly realises that, in this case, the men are entirely handicapped. (Read up the algorithm) Bumble employs a system where the women have the best match (where all the men propose and they keep the best one), and the men, on the other hand, must propose to everyone in the hope that they land someone. I'm not opposed to this either way, but I sincerely doubt that all the women are swimming in matches they want either because one of the documented drawbacks is that the women, although they get a match, are often left with someone they wouldn't prefer or are happy with. This is further magnified since the men barely read the profile and possibly swipe on a bikini picture of the girl and not read the rest.

Alright, so the way to game this to my advantage would be to propose to as many people as possible (even beyond my human limits) to ensure that I am proposing to as many candidates as possible. BUT AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

Bringing us on to hack two: Automating the swiping process. Can I write a bot that looks at the pictures of the women and then automatically swipes them? It turns out I can, and I did just that. Quite a few other bros have employed this method but with the serious intention of finding a date. Hopefully, they did. The treat, though, is their code bases and the annotation and comments. This guy had the method to swipe left or right as OK or KO. Another had called the process of collecting training data for the model “Scraping some bitches”. Lastly, the process of training and auto-swiping as “Crack open a cold one and watch the bot do its magic”, which I found morbidly hilarious.

Moving along - I coded up the bot. The process is relatively simple. It launches an instance of Bumble on a browser. You log in and swipe on a few profiles. The Machine Learing (refered to as ML here after) model learns the profile that you tend to like. And then you let it loose, and it swipes a couple of hundred profiles for you. The choice of the ML model was rather interesting. I had tried this with Tinder back in the day - and had chosen FaceNET with a face clipping method. I found that unreliable since I think the faces the AI thinks are my “type” aren't necessarily my type. When I was swiping on Bumble by myself - For the most part - if I was only to be visual about my preferences - were beautiful folks. So I switched it out for ImageNET, which was much better. It turns out that I prefer locational clues encoded in the pictures that I swipe. Having said that please enjoy a montage of a bunch of folks getting swiped on (I've blurred out the faces and the scores they got cause somehow this is the point my conscience kicked in):

Also if you would like to use this 'tool', for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY:

There were at least three or four matches at the Isabella Gardner Museum (the standard courtyard picture that everyone takes), some outdoors, specifically climbing (which was interesting since I do climb myself, but I never thought ImageNET would learn so quickly). Still, it was clear that context was something that mattered. A strangely refreshing thought was that the accuracy was never above 60-70%. I got more data to fine-tune it. And it plateaued out at around 70%. I'm no ML engineer, but It was weird since I had difficulty swiping left or right. Sometimes I swiped left simply cause I had swiped right on the person before. I do not know what I like about them, and it seemed like a complete whim. I sat for three minutes reading everything on someone's profile and could say no. Spend a second on one and say yes or spend minutes on a profile and swipe yes. There was no correlation when it came to my personal preferences. Regardless, the idea of the profile being superficial was rather obvious. Here’s the second rabbit hole: “Tired Judges? An Examination of the Effect of Decision Fatigue in Bail Proceedings” by Torres, L. C., & Williams, J. H. (2022). It turns out this is a real thing - and it has way more serious consequences than landing a weirdo for a date. Judges seemed to rule guilty on cases (I am paraphrasing) more often than not when they had ruled cases to be innocent way too many times. Rather shocking. It also feels rather laborious since women must be way more careful than men when picking the folks they swipe on, so the fatigue could build up far quicker than usual. (Also, off-topic Bard - the google AI is good at finding research papers when you vaguely describe what you want to find and cannot remember any of the details that concern the topic at hand).

Part 3: Results that do not matter

Okay, so success rates: I did have a fair few matches. But before I get into that, I want to speak about this other idea I mentioned - that the profile could have been anyone, and a single picture of me can be stolen from Linked In. I suppose this is accurate, and funnily enough, I was utterly paranoid about going out on a date - where I have convinced only a catfisher who wanted to steal my organs would swipe yes and meet me and murder me in an alley somewhere. I eventually met one of the girls. Who was very friendly and pretty and not a catfisher who wanted to murder me - although I never explained the whole scheme to her, which seems like a regret I have now. It was fun hanging about - she hit me with the “I need to focus on other things rn”, which was cool and nice of her to communicate.

Finally, this brings me to future speculation and how I felt about this whole thing. There was a time when I felt conflicted about the whole swiping thing. Just the act of swiping. An inconsequential gesture that negates a whole person in a way to say you aren't interested without knowing another person is denying their humanity in some sense. But at the same time, it could be fair to justify along the lines of “they didn't interest me”. I also thought of the whole market design aspect of it. Let's call it the dating market, where you enter into it with a portfolio of sorts: for example, your valuation is this complex weighting of your looks, perhaps qualifications, money etc. Although I’m sure, everyone has their unique method of weighing - the hegemonic sociocultural expectations indeed are biased towards the chads and the barbie looking folks (though I do not want to come across as conspiratorial). And also, if they were unique functions - how is it that folks almost look down upon those who date purely for looks? Isn't that the same essentially as dating for personality - equally as volatile and subject to change in the world that we live in?

Pure transactionality is silly if both parties are not fully aware. Based on rants I’ve heard from my friends, it always seems like this asymmetry in what they wanted led to a rift in the relationship. I also find transactionality or a barter of not the same thing rather distasteful - for example, a purely business relationship where you do x and get paid y is fine. I even suppose prostitution is okay to me personally (Barring the sex trafficking that seems to plague the industry), but cases, where x is dating y because they can sponsor their life, does not sit right with me. Perhaps this is me having an idealised version of romance where it's ascending beyond a give and take.

Erich Fromme has thoughts about this very question. He's written a bunch in his book “The Art of Love”, describing love as a skill akin to a painter who learns and practises the skill to bring out the best in a scene; a good lover can love what's best in a person. In any person. Which, to be frank, seems a bit much to me — basically a bit of a tall order for a mere mortal such as myself.

I did come up with a version of this that made sense to me - and perhaps is the best outcome to begin understanding relationships and what they mean to me. I think I am a massive sucker for rituals of friendships. Not institutional ones like graduation parties or Christmas parties but rather ones where I walk home with the same person every day. The folks I go climbing with. A friend I religiously get in touch with once a month over Facetime. My mother, who I call every week. I like the regularity of that. Also, I do not mind the transactionality if the expectations are set right and folks aren't hiding behind veils of ambiguity to keep options open. It could be purposeful disingenuity that I hate, and to build on that - I do consider lying by omission to mention facts disingenuous.

Moreover, I don't want to know people unless they voluntarily offer information. I enjoy meeting them, hanging out and then coming home - and deep relations for me aren't based on information but rather on the layering of these friendship rituals. This last thought, or rather the clarity of arriving at this last thought through a shenanigan makes me a rather big brained shenager. And maybe I want to take that comment about institutional rituals back - perhaps meeting and celebrating Christmas every year with the same folks is a facilitated ritual. But I also realise that institutional rituals are easy to corrupt (Christmans, for example, is a vast shopping advertisement now).

I will keep the bot running for a while and see what happens - I want to swap out the pictures and make them photoshopped versions of JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure and see what happens then. Stay tuned for an updated pst on the rest of the matched. Until then - keep shenangining!

Send a message or subscribe!