It’s probably safe to assume that the people who came up with the idea of texting never envisioned the sprawling effects it would have on everyday communication.
They probably never stopped to think that people would use their tool to pen poetic sexting messages, or that dirty chain texts would become a holiday tradition. And on an even more basic communication level, they probably didn’t think about the amount of brainpower that humans would expend decoding a message’s subtext.
In fact, demystifying texts has now gotten to the point that there’s an app that will analyze messages to figure out exactly what the hell another person is saying.
“Just like an expert in psychology, but better”
Meet Mei, a new app that is looking to strip text messages of their nuance and communicative juiciness. Gone are the days of receiving a “wyd” text and you consulting your friends, coworkers, and priest about what it all means.
Built on a database of millions of text messages and over 100,000 users, Mei uses AI (which is an optional tool within the app) to give you advice on texting, including suggestions on what to text next and guidance on how to avoid miscommunication. Speaking with VentureBeat, Mei’s designer Es Lee laid out the motivation behind the app.
“One of the difficulties of maintaining relationships through text is that it’s [possible] to come across as crass or rude — even when that was never the intention,” says Lee. “Emotion is lost in text messages. It’s a different form of body language that people aren’t quite attuned to detecting yet.”
But it Gets Stranger…
But Mei doesn’t stop at just giving you gentle text suggestions. It gets a little weirder. Mei also analyzes your texting partners’ communication style. It studies terseness, response time, word choice, and even emoji use to build a psychological profile of the person you are texting. Mei then analyzes your relation to that person, your “compatibility” with that person, and builds your own personality profile. Personality profiles consist of five spectrums: Openness, Emotional Control, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. You then receive a compatibility percentage with whomever you are texting.
Just how Mei obtains these texting profiles and communication styles is another potential PR hurdle that Mei may have to overcome. Mei requires users to upload their text message history to the app’s servers in order to get started with the app (though Lee insists that users have to explicitly agree to share their data, which is encrypted and made anonymous).
That compatibility scores and the pitfall of a bad Mei text suggestion could invite a host of second-guessing and handwringing from users over their relationships and communication styles is beside the point, at least in Lee’s eyes.
“Our idea is to use aggregated data to improve relationships with people. Other than face-to-face conversations, few forms of communication are more important than texting,” the founder said.
Though AI has been touted as a revolutionary step in technology that will have wide-ranging effects on larger industries, Mei showcases AI’s inevitable intrusion into the more mundane aspects of our lives. Or rather, we will finally have something that can decode “k” for us.