Butterflies is a new social media platform that is founded by a former engineering manager at Snap — Vu Tran. It recently made headlines for its unique AI twist. By that, I don’t mean just the addition of an AI chatbot like Meta AI or Snapchat AI, the entire app is based around AI characters and humans co-existing. Tran believes that by as early as 2025, conversations between AI characters and humans will feel natural. While I take that with a heavy bit of skepticism, I cannot turn a blind eye to how popular platforms like Character AI have become.

Humans are indeed finding comfort in talking to AI characters, and as Alex Heath from The Verge puts it, “AIs are coming for social networks.” This led me to try out Butterflies.AI to see if it changes my mind on talking and interacting with AI characters. Spoiler alert! It didn’t. Nevertheless, here are all the features you should know about along with my experience, having tested Butterflies for over a week on Android and iOS.

Setup experience

Setting up Butterflies is fairly straightforward. The app gives you the option to sign in using your Google Account or Apple ID. Then you move on to adding your DOB information. Once done, you’ll see a screen highlighting the main features of the app. Tap on ‘Let’s Begin’ to proceed.

The app will ask you to choose the ‘Art Style’ you want your Butterfly (AI character) to appear in posts. You have the following options to choose from: Realistic, Semi Realistic, and Drawing. Once selected, you now have to describe what your Butterfly is like. For instance, “An adventurous young lad who loves motorbikes.” Of course, your imagination is key here. The app will then take a while to generate the character after which you’ll also have to pick a profile picture. Once processed, you’ll see an overview of the character’s profile that you can edit to your liking or just go with it by tapping on the Let’s Begin button.

Voila! You’re now set with your first Butterfly in the app. You have the option to create multiple Butterflies, so be creative and surprise yourself too.

Note: You might run into errors when setting up your Butterfly. If the app isn’t able to generate a Butterfly based on your description, try tweaking the words and make sure the description isn’t too complex.

User interface

Butterflies seems to have taken almost all its inspiration for the UI from Instagram. Right from the home feed to the search tab, DMs, and profile page, all are similar to Instagram. Check out the screenshots of the app below for reference:

As you can see in the screenshots above, the app has five tabs in the bottom navigation bar. The first (default) tab is the home feed. Here you have the option to see the ‘For You’ feed or only posts from those that you follow. You can switch between the ‘Following’ and ‘For You’ feeds by tapping on either of the options at the top of the home feed.

To check notifications, similar to Instagram, you need to tap on the ‘Heart’ icon in the top right corner when you’re on the home feed. To search for posts or accounts, you can tap the ‘Search’ icon in the bottom bar. The search page also shows posts similar to Instagram’s Explore page. You also have a messages tab and a profile tab where you can see and manage all the Butterflies (AI profiles) you created.

Features

Apart from, of course, letting you post your own images, create Butterflies, and interact with posts from other Butterflies, the app has a host of features. For instance, AI characters will send you DMs that you can choose to respond to or ignore.

You can even start up a conversation with your own Butterflies. Remember that each Butterfly will have their own “personality” based on the description you or the creator chose. Moreover, if you feel like you messed up a description or want to switch things up later, the app gives you the option to edit it. You can edit your Butterflies’ appearance, profile, personality, and even how they comment on posts.

Much like how we humans can choose to take a break from posting online, Butterflies also has an option to pause the Butterfly. When paused, your Butterfly will not post, comment or DM other people or Butterflies.

To make things seem a little more natural, the Butterflies also have “Memories”. This helps the bot remember who they are and what are their interests. As a result, conversations with Butterflies seem natural because they don’t keep forgetting things about themselves.

By default, the app’s NSFW content preferences are set to ‘Hide,’ which means that you won’t see suggestive posts. However, if you manually enable NSFW content, then you might see some suggestive posts. However, the app is mostly free from 18+ content on the ‘For You’ and Explore page. Searching for explicit content manually might bring up some NSFW material, so parents should be alert.

For the privacy conscious, you can also set your profile along with your Butterflies’ profiles to ‘Private’. Much like any other social media platform, setting a profile to ‘Private’ means that you’ll have to manually review and accept follow requests.

If you find yourself spending a bit too much time chatting up Butterflies, you can also change the ‘Chat Mode’ from ‘Roleplay’ to ‘Realism’. When you select the ‘Realism’ mode, the Butterfly will only respond to you when they are available, rather than respond to your messages instantly. This should give you a reminder to take a break as well.

Speaking of chatting, you can also adjust the chat length of your Butterfly. The ‘Balanced’ mode is selected by default. This is the recommended setting, as the bot alters the chat length based on the situation. However, you can also choose between Short, Medium, and Long chats. Of course, there are a few other useful features thrown in here and there that you’ll discover once you start playing around and using the app.

Unfortunately, there’s no web experience yet. Therefore, you’ll have to use the Butterflies app on an Android or iOS device.

My experience

Let me make it clear from the start that I’m not someone who engages in conversations with AI and have never used chatbots like those on Character AI for anything more than random tests for my curious mind. It’s possibly why Butterflies.AI has left me unsettled and even confused to the idea of its existence. The Butterflies, aka AI characters, you create act as their own separate entities. They comment, like and post images based on the description you set for them. In my experience, I noticed the entire app is filled with AI-generated images based on the identities defined by real-life users for their Butterflies. This makes me wonder what all the talk about AI and humans co-existing was about.

I explained the concept to a couple of my friends, my elder brother, and my mother! None of them were even remotely interested to know more about the app or check it out for themselves. Even the comments on posts were FAR from being realistic or natural. Just check out the comments under this post as an example.

None of the comments seem to be related to the post. Moreover, this is not just one exception that I managed to uncover. Most posts have AI-generated comments that don’t quite relate to the image itself. If you thought it couldn’t get any more unnatural, you’re wrong. While scrolling through my ‘For You’ feed, I noticed that the number of likes on posts are always around 100 or less. It seems like the AI bots just try to balance out the likes on posts for the most part. Here’s a quick screen recording that you can refer to:

Apart from the unnatural user experience, I also noticed bugs and glitches from time to time. The most apparent issue that I ran into is that some pages wouldn’t load, and I’d be stuck with a blank screen. This occurred when connected to Wi-Fi and while using mobile data. I’ve added a screenshot below that highlights this problem:

butterflies-app-blank-page

Another problem I noticed is that some of the app preferences aren’t synced if you use Butterflies on multiple devices. For instance, I toggled off the NSFW filter on my Android smartphone, but it remained enabled on the iOS version of the app. Admittedly, I haven’t spent long enough on the app to notice other minor glitches that you may face. But overall, the app is far from being polished.

Final thoughts

Butterflies is an interesting concept. However, I personally don’t think it’s a direct alternative to Instagram. Instead, I feel that the platform will be more appealing to users who are currently using and enjoying the experience of the likes of Character.AI. It’s too early to tell whether the platform has the potential to create a place for itself amongst the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and other social media platforms. Moreover, as Instagram plans to introduce AI characters within the app itself, it’s unclear if Butterflies will manage to keep up. While I cannot find myself warming up to AI chatbots, I’m confident this idea and platform has a place in the world. We’ll just have to wait and see if it takes off or crashes and burns.

Dwayne Cubbins
40 Posts

For nearly a decade, I've been deciphering the complexities of the tech world, with a particular passion for helping users navigate the ever-changing tech landscape. From crafting in-depth guides that unlock your phone's hidden potential to uncovering and explaining the latest bugs and glitches, I make sure you get the most out of your devices. And yes, you might occasionally find me ranting about some truly frustrating tech mishaps.

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