Boyfriends, girlfriends, the pretense of courtship -- can't we just download an app for instant internet romantic gratification? Turns out, as our dystopian/utopian future becomes reality, having constant love in your life is exactly that easy. Sure, the relationship only exists online. But these days, almost nobody will ever know the difference. Now let's start shopping.
The web service GirlfriendHire has what it takes to make real human relationships obsolete. And why not? Facebook has already diminished friendship to a cowering, anemic orphan of a concept. Next up: Sex and love. The site allows you to directly order a fake girlfriend for $US5. It's a deal. You'll pay far more for a Match.com subscription, where you own only the chance of meeting someone.
Our technological age is defined by immediacy, superficiality and isolation. We need a Buy It Now button for emotions. And now we have it, sort of. GirlfriendHire is not perfect. But for $US5, it helps you look cool and feel less lonely. What other five dollar purchase can accomplish that?
Realize What You're Doing
You're about to pay a stranger on the internet in exchange for virtual love services. She's not going to touch you, hang out with you, or really know much of anything about you. "She" may not be a she, or a real person at all. There's nothing wrong or immoral or dangerous about this, but...just be straight with yourself about what you're buying here. On paper, it ain't pretty.
Time for a shopping spree! Get those fivers (and a PayPal account) ready. Try to ignore the inherent creepiness involved with "browsing" girls like some sort of sex trafficking bazaar. They're here because they want to be here, making money off of your sloth and solitude. GirlfriendHire offers a broad assortment of "flings" for your dollar, mostly orbiting around our aching, pathetic drive to be noticed and desired:
I will be your internet girlfriend for $US5 I will send you cute text messages for $US5 I will be your facebook girlfriend for $US5 I will send you flirty messages on your Facebook wall for $US5
And so on.
Some girls offer more rarefied stuff:
I will do your homework/help research, write and proofread papers for $US5 I will write a sexy story starring YOU! for $US5 I will give you a list of great dubstep for $US5 I will help you learn to use your iphone for $US5
Here you're not even really paying for romance, but for any kind of human companionship. This is more like that flirty girl who helps you in the library, who might just have a thing for you, but of course does not.
Think about what's missing in your life. There's a hole here to fill it. Or at least to fake filling it.
Choose Wisely And Choose Often
Even GirlfriendHire's owner, Cody Krecicki, admits the place is rife with spam accounts and fraud. Over some email interviews, he recommended sorting the girl list by rating to put those with good feedback at the top. Also, look at the picture -- if it doesn't look like someone who'd really be earning money by sending Facebook messages for $US5 payments, it probably isn't an accurate avatar.
For that reason, a scattershot approach is best. Increase your chances on getting something good from the site by spreading money across multiple flings -- a $US35 bet should do it. It's like tapas, only instead of tasty Spanish food, you're buying the temporary attention of an apathetic stranger.
Embrace Your New Girlfriend(s)
As the cyberlove rolls in, the fun (?) part begins. I bought "a text thanking you for one great night of passion for $US5." I received the following:
"Wow, the other night was amazing. I never even imagined that i could have so many orgasms in a row. I really cant stop thinking about you and id love to see you again as sooooooon as you can"
Hey now! That seems like a totally realistic thing someone would say to me. Great.
I also purchased two Facebook relationships, which were the most fruitful.
Michelle Reid was a better virtual girlfriend than many real girlfriends (or boyfriends) ever prove to be. At first. Over Facebook Chat she asked about my interests, my work and told me about her travel aspirations. She complimented me. But most importantly, she wrote on my wall. A lot.
Things like this...
...and, if you're able to suspend disbelief, this will definitely make you feel like you're on her mind (although that pet thing was weird). If you just pretend there was never that damning $US5 handover, it actually seems, if only for a moment, that another person really cares about you.
You Need A Story
This internet love theatre isn't happening in a vacuum. Michelle (or her equivalent) is posting for the sake of showing her affection to everyone you already know. It's all over your wall -- that's what you paid for in the first place. So be prepared to offer some sort of explanation for this sudden flurry of strange female interest you've encountered. Nobody you know will have any idea who she is. It looks fishy! So say nothing, or be demure. Oh, she's just a new friend.
But don't lie to your real friends. They'll be impressed, but they won't buy it for long. Let your inner circle in on the ruse, and the other 900 people you're acquainted with on Facebook, who you never speak to anyway, will just assume you're suddenly popular and somehow much more attractive. At least that's the idea, right? Having 15 strangers suddenly posting MISS U BABE XOXOXO might repulse a lot of the girls you're trying to get with in real life. Or, it might make you seem like a catch. At the very least, you'll look cool to that guy you used to know freshman year. Somewhere, he's nodding in admiration.
Deal With The Consequences
It turns out virtual girlfriends, unlike the cybernetic sex droids who will someday succeed them, aren't perfect. As much as GirlfriendHire has managed to make humanity abstract, you're still dealing with an actual person. People can be needy. Don't forget: You're needy.
But you can get more than you paid for. A girl named McKenna Riley, who had promised to shower me with Facebook adoration, commented that I looked "way sexy" in a photo that wasn't me. Come on, McKenna. Michelle Reid, as you can see in the chat at the left, basically dumped me. That's after she pestered me when I didn't reply to her messages. She was coming to me for emotional support. But we, the clients, are supposed to be the broken-down emotional voids here! That's what we're using GirlfriendHire in the first place, right? Just be aware, if you're shopping in the internet bargain bin simulacrum of affection, that handling any human emotion whatsoever is a delicate matter.
But that's OK: people are disposable in this age. Any of these girls can be unfriended and replaced with another $US5 PayPal injection. Rinse and repeat until you feel so horrible and empty that you go outside and meet someone great. Or just keep hiring.
User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Friday.