How do you do, fellow kids: Facebook is rolling out new AI characters to lure Gen Z users. But their personalities are a bit... dated.

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How do you do, fellow kids: Facebook is rolling out new AI characters to lure Gen Z users. But their personalities are a bit... dated.
A costume of Bender from Futurama next to the Meta logo. Michael Tullberg / Getty Images Contributor, NurPhoto / Getty Images Contributor
  • Meta is hoping to gain more Gen Z customers with new AI chatbots.
  • The bots are based on outdated characters that aren't as resonant with a Gen Z audience.
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Meta is aiming to reel in younger customers this week with witty AI chatbots across its apps — but the company's idea of Gen Z humor might be a little off.

As Meta calls them, Gen AI Personas are being tested by employees and will likely be announced Wednesday at the Meta Connect conference, The Wall Street Journal reported. The age of the employees evaluating the bots is unclear, but Meta announced the development of the bots in February.

One persona targeted toward Gen Z is "Bob the Robot," a chatbot based on the character Bender from "Futurama."

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Bob is meant to be sarcastic, sassy, and slightly sardonic — although one employee noted that he can be rude and "unhelpful."

"Him being a sassy robot taps into the type of farcical humor that is resonating with young people," one employee said in a written internal conversation reviewed by the Journal.

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Because we all know that analyzing humor down to its basest qualities is the best way to reach a different generation.

Aside from the awkward summation of Gen Z humor, Bender might be a touch behind what kids are watching today.

Gen Z is between 11 and 26 years old, and "Futurama" — though it's been rebooted multiple times — originally aired between 1999 and 2003, around the time the generation's oldest members were toddlers.

Meta's attempt at being Gen Z's 'North Star'

Meta also misses the mark on what Gen Z humor is — often absurdist, incredibly fast-moving, "anti-humor." It's supposed to be kind of dumb; a far cry from the "superior intellect, sharp wit, and biting sarcasm" Bob the Robot exemplifies.

Which means the company is at risk of falling prey to young people's other favorite source of comedy: millennials who think they're funny. Instead, Meta might want to take note of the moderate success of Snapchat's AI chatbot, My AI.

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The generative AI rolled out in February, and since then, young users have made it a trend to purposely torture the bot by giving it stressful prompts and posting them to TikTok. This may be due to the internet's fascination with "breaking" chatbots to get them to sidestep the guardrails they are programmed with.

And while My AI has the dry personality of ChatGPT, the humor lies in what you can do with it rather than what it is — users try to shape the bot's new character with their own prompts instead. So far, the #snapchatAI hashtag on TikTok has half a billion views.

This doesn't mean, however, that Gen Z is fully onboard with AI bots. Dozens of videos calling AI bots "creepy" or invasive have gone viral on the platform. Young users also wonder whether or not the bots are collecting sensitive information, mirroring a growing concern from Gen Z that their privacy isn't being protected online.

Meta also noted this when testing one of their other Personas, Alvin the Alien, the Journal reported. One employee wondered if the inquisitive extraterrestrial would prompt concerns that information was being collected since Alvin asked users many questions about their experiences on Earth.

The focus on younger users comes as the social media behemoth looks to leave behind its older Boomer brand and cultivate an audience of young adults. In October 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted Meta's brands to become the "North Star" for young people online.

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Only 3.4% of Facebook users are between 13-17, according to Statista, and most are above 25. Meanwhile, only 8% of Instagram users fall under the 13-17 age category. Instead, the bulk of the app's user base is Zillennials, per Statista.

Meta and Snapchat did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider sent outside regular business hours.

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