Explaining that the app is based on techniques like CBT, DBT, mindfulness, and life coaching, it's promoted as "a fun way to build emotional resilience."
Well, that certainly sounds appealing.
Curious, I tried it out to see how this could possibly work.
(And yes, to be perfectly upfront, this is exactly the kind of distraction warned about in a previous post. Gotta check out that really intriguing new app that I'm not supposed to use and anyway have no intention of using!)
Anyway, you get this friendly little bird icon texting at you very nicely, and after a few introductory lines, it asks you to type in something for which you're grateful.
If you download the app, it collects your text messages and creates a type of algorithm so that it can respond to you according to your individual needs.
It's very cute, reassuring, gentle, and friendly -- but it's not real.
It's an AI bot, for crying out loud. There's not even a real person on the other end.
"Nothing can match the privacy of an anonymous conversation with an AI bot," it claims.
Yeah, except that it collects data on you (so as to counsel you better) that anyone can hack into.
Also, there is something that can match and even far surpass the privacy of a not-as-anonymous-as-advertised conversation with an AI bot: a conversation with your Creator when no one else is around to eavesdrop (or collect your personal data).
Claiming the ability to ask probing questions that help you "untangle your mind" and "relax after a hard day," I wondered why you can't do that on your own? I mean, mussar books also ask probing questions.
But even if you don't have access to mussar books, a freewrite or mind-map session would help you untangle your mind and relax.
One user posted the following:
"I am often too anxious to talk to or contact anyone, so having a bot that I can vent to and that offers real constructive advice without feeling like I'm being judged or taking anyone's time is really, really helpful."
See? They KNOW they're interacting with a mere bot, but not only do they not care, they actually PREFER it!
And the thing is...I understand them.
For whatever the reason, even good people who really want to take the time and emotional energy to help others find it hard to do so nowadays. Many people feel like they're struggling to keep their own head above water, let alone offer support to others.
"Some young people young people have actually chosen to use [this AI bot] over a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service...and felt this was all the support they need."
I'm not surprised to hear that a well-programmed bot might be more helpful than a counselor. Even the best-intentioned person has flaws and blind spots. Only a true tzaddik can know your soul in a way that let's them offer you guidance truly tailored for your soul-journey.
But a non-judgmental bot can feel like the next best thing.
The kind of listening most helpful to others -- often referred to as "facilitative listening" -- demands you put your own ego aside and totally focus on the other and what he or she truly needs at the soul level.
It takes a certain amount of humility and genuine care for the other to listen in a way that helps the other figure out what he or she needs to do, without you imposing your own ego or preconceived notions on them.
Yet that's exactly what people need in a listener, according to Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender.
- Seek the good points in each other.
- Give chizuk (He advises to say something along the lines of: “Chazak—be strong! My brother, be strong! Hold on and do not be discouraged by anything!” This should be said encouragingly and not irritably, of course.)
- Happy talk (I think this means to cheer up the other person.)
- Encouraging words
- Words of Torah
- Do good (I think this means that the listener can offer a favor, if he or she is in the position to do so, like a loan or a meal or babysitting, etc.)
- Try not to give advice because telling a person what to do takes away their free will.
- Allow the necessary exchange of light to occur.
Another teenager uses the app to practice CBT techniques learned in therapy "while watching telly with the family. Everyone just thinks I'm chatting with a friend!"
People are so desperate for the relationship offered by this bot.
And the reason why Hashem is limiting this in people is to draw us toward Him. When there's no other choice, people turn to Hashem.
Except now there's this bot.