Life Matters

Rent A Friend?

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?

friends-wantedAre 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.

rent-a-friend

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?

A Single Mother with an unbreakable passion to Live the Life! I am a Writer/Author by passion and an IT Project Manager by profession. I am also the voice of Artemis at In The Pantheon - a multi-author collaborative writing project. When not hunting as Artemis, I am busy querying agents and working on my multiple writing projects. Women Empowerment and Child Rights Advocate.

110 Comments

  • Ananya

    I had heard of the cuddler (apparently that’s one of the very fast emerging professions), where you get to hire a professional to give u hugs and cuddle with you. Now a Friend? What’s next? A professional spouse? Smh.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Cuddler? Wow…that’s new to me! People really need to pay now for hugs and cuddles too! Like seriously?
      Yea…if this is how it continues, next is probably Rent A Spouse for a week or month or something along those lines! ugghh

  • Fun Simplicity

    This is such a sad truth. I’m always out alone because I always ended up making new friends (even the road sweeper is my friend… LOL!😂). It’s easy to make acquaintances, but true friends are hard to come by and hard to catch. I’ll rather not go for the party or function, then to rent a “dummy friend”. 😄

  • oneta hayes

    It is pretty sad. But I’m bringing the issue right down to my door step with this thought. I feel more friendship with you Ananya, Rashmi, and Turtle than I do with neighbors on my street. Sorry I haven’t met Fun Simplicity (first commenter). I’ll have to correct that by hopping over to her blog. Sure like my blogging friends. But I would hate to do without handshakes and hugs I got from my friends at church tonight. .

    • MindandLifeMatters

      I have made some really good friends through the blogging platform. In spite of that, I treasure the moments I spend with a friend simply talking over a cup of coffee.
      Thank you for being a good friend to us in this platform Oneta 🙂

  • whatsandrathinks

    Wow… I had no idea this existed. I don’t get it. You’re not even renting a friend… you’re renting a body to stand with you so you’re not alone. And what’s wrong with being alone anyway?
    I cannot imagine getting fulfilled in any way by such non-personal means.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Exactly my point! I guess the only idea is how it portrays to others or those in your circle. You know, show or be that popular person who always has friends sorrounding him or her? I don’t understand what’s wrong in going alone? It’s not like this paid friend has any genuine interest in the activity they are accompanying you on, they have to do it coz they are paid for it, what’s the fun in that??
      I can’t comprehend this idea at all!

  • Visakha

    Hmm.. I can’t think of anyone replacing my friends. I like them flesh, bones and madness! I treasure all their drama too!! 🙂
    P. S. I think I may know someone who can make some money by being a rented friend. This applies to India as well right?! 😛

  • Wandering Soul

    I wonder if a ‘friend’ is the right word for it. You can’t meet someone and pay them to develop a relationship that builds over time. Maybe what is may mean is a companion or to be more specific someone to give them company while doing a certain task. Can anyone pay up a stranger for a cup of coffee and a heart-to-heart. Don’t think so..

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Yea I fail to understand how they can be called a ‘friend’ if they are paying for it and the person hired is bound by contract to please the hirer!
      Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  • ranu802

    Thank you for posting this.No I wouldn’t rent a friend. The number of friends I have is enough for me, it’s a risky thing, how does anyone know who these people are. I agree with your feeling, you are not old fashioned, it’s the right thing to do. I wonder what else they will sell. 🙁

    • MindandLifeMatters

      It’s crazy what all the big corporate word has become successful in selling. They are using the insecurities of people and productivizing everything they can get out from that insecurity! It’s a sad but true fact!
      Thanks for the comment, Ranu 🙂

  • Dr Meg Sorick

    This reminded me of what elderly widows did in Victorian times – they paid unmarried women, usually ones who were past the prime age to marry, to be their companions. Although, it was probably more like the Victorian Era’s version of assisted living.
    I can’t imagine having to pay someone to be my “friend.” I rather be alone, too. If you have the courage to pay for someone’s “friendship,” then why not summon up the courage to join a club or take a class and try to make some real friends? With people who share your interests?

  • Megha Agrawal

    where are we leading to? Now we even get friends on rent. Definitely such paid service cannot be called friendship. Its the cost one is willing to pay to get company. Instead of connecting, technology has disconnected people.

  • lgwhite67

    No, no I wouldn’t rent a friend, but then again I’m comfortable with myself and enjoy my time alone. But it is scary to think that as a society we are devolving into a world where people feel the need to “purchase” friendships and experiences.
    When I was working in a nursing home while going to college, I took a lady on a home visit. Since she was just in for rehab because of a hip replacement she was being observed to see if she could return home. She pointed out all of these pictures to me throughout her house and even had a story for each, “This is my niece. She is in college in Oklahoma, isn’t she beautiful!” But the scary thing was that all the pictures were the ones that came with the frames … she had no one. It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen!
    People want love and acceptance and are willing to go to any length to get it … these are hard times, so while I wouldn’t rent a friend, I can see why such a service exists in our lonely world.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Oh dear the story of that old lady is really sad. I believe it’s this kind of loneliness that drives people into trying to buy their way into happiness. For them even if the friendship comes by paying it is still company.
      But I just wish that our world didn’t continue to devolve at the rate it is.
      Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  • fictionalkevin

    Back when I used to do one-on-one counseling I considered myself a “rent a friend” to many of my clients. They lacked the social support network to deal with life, so they paid me to listen to them and possibly help direct their thoughts in a healthy direction. I often thought many of them would be just fine if they had a few caring people in their lives.

      • fictionalkevin

        In my experience it could be a number of factors. Making friends requires somewhat of a framework – you have to be in places to meet new people, have a way to connect with them, etc. Most have the “skills” to make friends, but not necessarily the opportunity.
        In some cases it was also self-inflicted isolation, either physical (a housewife who never had the opportunity to leave home) or emotional (I don’t like being around new people.)

  • shinepositivepower

    Whoa! Alarming news indeed…I never heard of it, thanks for sharing this…Very sad that so many people feel disconnected that they will go to such length just to have someone be with them. I would never rent a friend even if I will be alone, besides in order to have a friend, you should be a friend first, no amount of money can really buy the connection, the kindness, care and understanding you will be able to give to a friend even if those friends doesn’t reciprocate as happiness comes from giving and sharing. Online or offline I treat people the same, it is up to people if they will be my friend or not as friendship should not be forced. Since when does friendship comes with a price? I guess they just use the term “friend” when it really just means a hired companion or a hired help so it would be more appealing while those who work as “friend” just treat it as a job. I consider all of those I meet in blogosphere especially in blogger’s world community my friends as they are supportive, caring and kind and it was natural for me to reciprocate that. Of course, it would be better if we can all meet in person lol 🙂 So, thank you Rashmi for being one of my friends here. 🙂 Hugs! Give your son a hug for me.:) Blessings to you!

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Alarming Indeed, Shine! It is sad that humanity has reached this level to want to pay for relationships! I find it difficult to understand how people would find happiness in the paid relationships, does it even serve the purpose? Or is it just the presence of someone that matters to them.
      Thank you Shine for being a very good friend to me, I am glad I met you here. This place has given me some very good friends.
      Bless you and family! 🙂

      • shinepositivepower

        Yes, humanity might have reached this level and may worsen as time goes by. I guess the purpose only of that is to have a presence of someone, if you pay someone to be a friend, will you trust them to like you as you are and not for what you can give for them? Friendship is priceless and I am glad there are still people like you here and those I met that are willing to give their time, energy and effort wholeheartedly. 🙂 Hugs! 🙂

  • Anand

    Sounds like a platonic escort service to me. You pay and someone spends time with you. But there’s another side to it – there might be people out there who can’t find a friend they like in their real lives, so they find them online. You could work hard in your kitchen to make dosas and eat a custom-made personalized dosa, or you can go out to a restaurant, pay for it, and eat it without sweating to make it. Hmmm….

  • Josh Gross | The Jaguar

    Wow, I’m actually disgusted by this. Getting paid to pretend to be someone’s friend is fake and abusive. It’s taking advantage of someone’s loneliness, inability to connect, and/or fear of being by themselves to make money: and not in a way that’s likely to help that person. All it will do is teach them that other people only value them for their money. This is capitalism at its worst.

  • freespirit

    If some one just needs some one to take them to some special event why not. Many elderly people are very lonly some people don’t want to go in a pub or club without a male escort, in my youth a respectable woman would not go for a drink in a pub without a male escort which meant many widows were very lonly. It is a way of meeting some one without the worry of sex coming into it and it might even develop into a genuine friendship and certainly a way to meet people, not much different from other,pay to meet and match efforts, all over the internet that many join, when divorced to meet somebody else, only perhaps safer.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      I guess I understand your views. But in most of those internet dating sites the idea is to meet someone and then develop a relationship with him/her. However in this case you pay the person on hourly basis to do what you want to do, the person being paid merely accompanies them and has no say in what or where they should go. And this is a one time thing. Next time you want to go out you have to hire someone again and it needn’t or in most cases be the same person as the last time…so unfortunately you do not get to make friends with them or build a relationship.
      I can probably try to understand why lonely people would like this service. What I don’t understand or like is the fact that people are so lonely these days and that there are others out there who take advantage of their loneliness and cash in on that!

      • freespirit

        Some might say they are cashing in on others lonliness and some one else might say they provide a service. I look at it from the point of view if an older person loses a long term husband or partner or vice versa and they don’t want anything but a bit of company in the early days and they don,t have friends for many don’t’ i suppose it might be a comfort.

  • Deb at The Front Door Project

    Wow! Have never heard of this, but guess nothing shocks me too much anymore. I would never “rent-a-friend” or be someone else’s “rent-a-friend” but I think it speaks to just how hard it can be to make true friends in this day and age. Paying someone to be your friend is sad and a bit crazy, but perhaps subscribing to a site that desires to join people who are having trouble making friends – maybe there is a place for that.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      I agree, every day we hear so many things that as of now nothing seems to surprise!
      I would’ve understood this concept had it been like those dating sites, where one pays to subscribe to the site and then meets people online first before meeting in real life. But the whole concept of charging by the hour is equivalent to escort service.
      Then again, there are those who do not have any friends and do not know what to do to make friends. Life has become so busy for everyone that there is no time for anyone to actually spend on getting to know a new person!

  • mliae

    Wow…that’s a new one. When did we become so dependent on taking the easy way out, that we started paying strangers to be friends instead of winning them over naturally with a great convo? You know things have gotten bad when….

  • robertmgoldstein

    I’m the opposite.
    I would give up the internet in a second if I thought it threatened my real life relationships.
    It is the people in my physical reality who help me to survive; who sit and have coffee with me, and who go with me to the doctor when I’m ill.
    I agree with you that social networking illustrates the importance of our relationships; but for me it does this by illustrating the tenuousness of the relationships we have on social media. I’m not saying that
    I don’t value the people I interact with on WordPress and on other social networking sites;
    I even have a few online friends that I speak with via Skype…
    I would do anything in my power for them; and that’s the problem.
    There is very little I can do for a friend online who is in pain; except offer comforting words…
    but someone in a crisis of survival whose only friendships are online is in trouble.
    As for renting friends, I see that as a bye-product of the gaming culture that dominated the internet at its inceptions and informs the emphasis on ‘numbers’.
    A high score is great in a game and I suppose that one can play a ‘game of friends’ in which one joins a friend exchange that consists of people who exchange likes.
    That may be what people are renting when they rent a friend: access to a ‘like’ exchange where people will give a ‘like’ for a ‘like’ whether they like you or not.
    I suppose that for some people a thousand likes by trade is as good as a thousand genuine likes earned by quality…
    Our culture is plagued by a high tolerance for cheating to win.

    • MindandLifeMatters

      Very well said Rob. It is almost like a game, gambling perhaps. The stakes are high when money is involved. The only difference here from gambling would be that in this case returns are guaranteed for the money spent! Probably that’s why people are ready to ‘trade’ for relationships too instead of putting in the effort to build a relationship. Even online friendships need effort to maintain, so for one who is not ready to put in that kind of time and energy, guess renting is the option!

      • robertmgoldstein

        I had a mentor who once said: the lower the stakes, the more vicious the competition. He was the one who introduced me to the concept of anonymous fame….which is how he felt about being a famous poet…LOL

  • voiceofastranger

    Friends back those were those who knew us a bit more than we knew ourselves but after reading your blog it’s like “I can be your friend who knows everything about you in an hour if you pay me well”..

  • Christy Birmingham

    I think that technology is making everyone so focused on singular life that they are losing the skills to connect in person with other people. I think another factor is that people are just so busy these days – they are going here, there, and everywhere, with little time to forge new friendships. So, rent a friend provides a way to quickly meet someone or have a companion for a single event that won’t disrupt the busy schedule. I’m not saying that’s necessarily healthy but I think that is part of what is happening. Great post!

  • hdelvaux

    It’s called prostitution.
    Not in the way that word is included in our law articles (something limited to illegal sex), but the more general “humanistic” content infill of the term.
    When you sell or buy some set of acts which intrinsically belong to the realm of mutual personal human values (including our general human ethics), in other words turning a human value into TRADE for money, they you’re “prostituting” yourself. This prostitution equalyy comes from both sides (buyer and seller) because both kill the humanistic base of the acts.
    It’s not JUST with “sex” ‘(which seems to be the only illegal feat of prostitution in a list, in most countries), but it applies to the more generalised infill of “love”, it applies to intrinsic friendship, it applies to human life aid, and it also applies to safeguarding the respect for ethic values embedded in many professions.
    Prostitution = throwing away precius human values, in exchange of money.

  • Jayash

    Nice blog and thanks for sharing this information…
    Friendships cannot be taken for a price and it’s invaluable. However, that is my personal view. If you have very few good friends, that’s enough.

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