Should You Buy a Facebook Girlfriend?

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Become the forbidden fruit.

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American Social Hygiene Association's WWII venereal disease prevention campaign  [otisarchives3 / flickr]

"Truth is, life is complicated. Sometimes having a fake internet girlfriend helps make it a lot less complicated."

I imagine that coming from a throaty, deliberate voice like that of Sam Elliott over a beer commercial.

But no, it's the copy that the site Fake Internet Girlfriend uses to pitch their service -- in response to a rhetorical "Why rent an online girlfriend?" Said service involves a quasi-fraudulent Facebook account that will declare itself "In a relationship" with you. It will also post syrupy missives on your wall, and send you messages at times apropos of your proclivities. All for a minimum three-month $750 commitment.

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Intimate as that sounds, the relationship is never anything but online. The operator of said Facebook account is indeed a real woman (supposedly) who knows real things about her patron, but nary the twain shall meet.

The company says that some people hire fake girlfriends for purposes of invoking jealousy in exes; others for reasons related to their jobs. Most troubling, they also suggest using the service to deflect suspicion of homosexuality:

Sometimes people want to keep certain aspects of their personal life, well personal and private. The one way to do this is to hire a fake Internet girlfriend for appearances sake. It avoids all the pesky little questions about why you've never been seen dating a girl before.

Suppress your sexuality by paying to construct an elaborate system of lies. Make life "less" complicated.

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This and other services for fake Facebook relationships have been almost entirely marketed to men. Beyond quirky misogyny, that also carries the implication that we men occupy the lion's share of the market for consumption of moral depravity. For all other sexes and genders and preferences excluded by these sites, though: give it time. As Cosmopolitan posited:

Certainly, having a girlfriend can make a guy seem more desirable, and we totally understand why a dude might be tempted to use the service after a breakup to make an ex jealous. (Hey, in some of our lower, post-relationship moments we'd probably even consider using it, too, if there was a ladies' version.)

Some day women, too, might go to lengths to make their partners jealous. Maybe, some day.

In 1992's Wayne's World, Wayne's ex-girlfriend Stacy did conspicuously make out with other men to get under his skin, to no avail.

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Paramount
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Is using this sort of service ever, ever advisable?

No. But these businesses have been seeing "incredible success." A co-founder of the site Cloud Girlfriend told the BBC, "We received 85,000 emails in [the first] three weeks from people who wanted to learn more." I suppose, desperate times and measures, all being fair in love, etc. We are nothing if not piñatas of emotion, and sometimes it's the really big kid's turn to hit us. Eventually we break, usually at the neck or midsection, and stuff comes out. 

For someone at that sort of nadir, the Brazilian site Namaro Fake definitely makes the fake Facebook girlfriend process look simple and appealing. Even if you don't speak one palavra of Portuguese: 

Psychology Central offers questions of self-reflection that we might use when evaluating the appropriateness of any relationship. I've adapted them to apply to fake Facebook girlfriends.

  1. Most of the time, do I feel stronger or weaker when I think about having a fake Facebook girlfriend? Mentally, physically, and emotionally, does the idea of a fake Facebook girlfriend mostly strengthen me, or mostly deplete me? 
  2. Most of the time, would I feel trapped or strengthened by sharing my virtual space with a fake Facebook girlfriend? How would I feel when I got a notification that my fake Facebook girlfriend had posted on my wall? 
  3. What if my fake Facebook girlfriend messaged me that she was walking up the steps to my home? Knowing that I musn't violate the terms of service -- that we are "100% never" to meet -- would I answer the door? Would that rule make her all the more alluring? The possibility of a Pretty Woman romance completely off the table, might I be opening myself to even more heartache, longing for this woman who shows me so much affection, yet whom I can never truly know?

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While these services do not invite every moral dilemma involved in hiring a real-life escort to accompany you to a gala -- it is a lie, but it never leads to sex -- it is against some rules. Specifically, Facebook's rules. Being dishonest to your friends is one thing; crossing Zuckerburg is another.

The site Cloud Girlfriend made news offering a similar fake girlfriend service in 2011, but the concept was quickly killed by Facebook over terms of service violations. Fake accounts are not allowed. So people who wish to run fake Facebook girlfriend escort services are being driven underground. It's probably only a matter of time before Fake Internet Girlfriend gets shuttered as well. 

Meanwhile women who work as fake Facebook girlfriends are relegated to hawking their services on forums and auction sites, covertly, in the shadows. In places where they could trick or be tricked, cover could be blown, and people could get embarrassed.

In light of those risks, men can be driven to create these girlfriends themselves. Josh Gondelman wrote at The Cut about an experimental foray into creating a fake internet girlfriend:

I even started a Twitter account for a fake girlfriend from New Hampshire. I fired off a few decoy tweets -- "I totes need a pumpkin latte today," "Happy hour with my besties. Can't. Wait." -- before tweeting, "@joshgondelman Uv got a great dick, chief." So the account wouldn't seem fake, I also made her follow Ke$ha and Fareed Zakaria.

As bad as the idea of buying fake Facebook girlfriends is, creating them ourselves, and having dialogues with ourselves, is worse. The fake girlfriend phenomenon is one we cannot stop. But while we can't condone it, neither should we drive it underground, into an even darker place. This sort of thing is best kept in the open, where it can be safely regulated and taxed. 

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If you'd like to be one of those professionals, Fake Internet Girlfriend is -- for the time being, at least -- still thriving and hiring new fake girlfriends.

The job pays $10 per hour. Not glorious, but, a job. 

"Truth is, life is complicated."

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James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

 
 

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