I recently happened to read an article in a magazine about a practice, that has developed few years back and is spreading quickly worldwide, termed “Rent A Friend”. As I read the article, I was shocked to learn the statistics on the number of people who were using the services of the said website. This website offers friends for rent worldwide.
Not so long ago, friendship belonged to a dwindling list of desirable outcomes – including happiness, wisdom and good weather – that money couldn’t buy. In a cold and indifferent world full of cold and indifferent strangers, a friend was something you had to make yourself. But not anymore; now you can purchase friendship at your convenience, by the hour. For a certain consideration, you can hire someone to go to a museum with you, or hang out at the gym, or keep you company while you shop. A stranger, you might say, is just a friend who hasn’t invoiced you yet.
This disturbing development has its origins in Japan, but it has also become big in countries like US, Canada, UK and Dubai. The website Rent A Friend maintains a database with 417,000 names on it, chums-for-hire from all over the world. Apparently, 2,000 people pay to subscribe in order to find friends to take to dinner or to invite round for some scrapbooking, extended shopping sprees; back-to-back movies; yoga classes; hot air balloon rides; marathon phone chats – all covered.
But when did friendship become a marketable commodity with its own bar code?
Are we so lonely or so inept at connecting to others that we have to hire strangers? Or has technology with its social networking lifeline become the cause of disconnection instead of the obverse? The website may not holler its wares, but it unwittingly calls attention to itself by its very existence. For $24.95 a month, you can access details of friends’ profiles, filtered by your city and interests. At a click, you can rent a friend or get paid to be one, thus disputing the virtue of friendship, and shooting out numerous thorny questions. It may all sound a bit suspicious, but Rent a Friend founder Scott Rosenbaum insists that the service furnishes platonic friendship only. Those seeking or offering more are struck off.
Back to the thorny questions that have pricked the very virtue of friendship, it is a notable fact that the website has gone from just a few members to a six-digit figure in less than two years!
Rosenbaum claims proudly that it is the timeline of the website that he is most proud of as three months into inception of this website, and people were already becoming paid members.
The growing appeal of the website should be a growing concern for society. Psychologists and Researchers claim that it is a because of the revolution digital social networks like Facebook, twitter, MySpace, etc. that have eclipsed traditional interpersonal relations. They say; although it is easy to believe that technology has trivialized friendships, it has had the exact opposite effect – technology has highlighted just how important interpersonal relations are. The person who hires a friend is no different from the person who has 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook – they both make friendships a ‘Product’.
After reading that article and doing a little of my own research, I couldn’t help but share this on my blog post! As for me, I consider my true friends as some of the most important people in my life and take the rough with the smooth and the smiles with the tears. I’d NEVER consider paying for someone to pretend to be my friend, and fake their sense of humor, witty remarks and personality in order for me to have faked social relations. Maybe it’s just me with my old fashioned standards and morals or maybe this is just another absurd idea that I hope never catches on any further!
What about you? Would you consider renting a friend, paying them to spend time with you?