I Was An Invisible Girlfriend and Boyfriend
July 9, 2015 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to try crowdsourced intimacy. lol :) This is an article about an invisible girlfriend and boyfriend job.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If I spent an hour answering texts, and took the full five minutes to write each one, I’d be making 60 cents an hour, far below the minimum wage.

Well. Who would have thunk?
posted by Frowner at 11:05 AM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

That was fascinating. Thanks! I'm seriously tempted to give it a try. But not for 60 c per hour.
Exploitation indeed.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow, I didn't think this could get more distressing and sad after the taxidermy conversation, but then you come to this:

By the time I answered 100 texts, I would make $5. Meanwhile, Invisible Girlfriend was charging $15 to $25 for 100 texts, so I can see why this is a good business for them.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

But not for 60 c per hour

That's only if you took five minutes to write every text. None of the texts quoted in the piece look like they'd take more than 20-30 seconds to dash off. I imagine it would still be hard to get up to minimum wage, but the 60-cents-an-hour thing is a bit silly.
posted by yoink at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2015

Could you dash off 100 "meaningful" texts in an hour? That's $5/hour, which still stinks. You'd have to do something like 150 texts/hour to hit minimum wage. I'm pretty sure I'd struggle to do anywhere near that many.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would love to do it if I could pretend that I was invisible in real life. Like if I could text, "Somebody just walked in to me again cuz they couldn't see me. Cuz I'm invisible! It's pretty scary! I'm actually a ghost really. Booooooo!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is an article about an invisible girlfriend and boyfriend job.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9

Pretty much eponysterical.
posted by Foosnark at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Invisible boy
Electronical romance
Never get knocked up
posted by JanetLand at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I tried this I would probably get fired on my first day for trying to steer every conversation to a place where I could work in the lyrics to "Invisible Touch."
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2015 [10 favorites]

You'd need to have a built-in ability.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2015 [10 favorites]

I would do this only if I can be George Glass.
posted by dr_dank at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Should note that I found this via Digg which is a great service now
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2015

I met a guy in his late 20s who wanted to have an extended conversation with his “lovingly nerdy, best-friend-turned-girlfriend” about taxidermy.

I was having a jokey conversation the other day about whether "friendship for pay" was a viable service: would people pay a fee to have someone pretend to be their friend and pretend to care about whatever they wanted to talk about, do whatever (non-sexual) activities they wanted together with them, read and excitedly discuss their unpublished novel however terrible, and so on and so forth? And here it is - the micro-level version of such a thing, where people are willing to pay for an instant-gratification simulacrum of a relationship that in reality would have to have developed over a length of time, gradually and not without effort.

It made me think about how probably everybody has some point in their life where the reason they want friendship and love is entirely about wanting someone to validate them and fill their needs. For a lot of people I'd guess this stops when we're old enough to develop theory of mind, but not for everyone; I think you probably have to have experienced a really positive friendship or family relationship to take pleasure in the reciprocity of caring about someone. So it made me kind of sad. Although, that said, there's also some value in the idea that if all I really wanted was for someone to listen to me, for just a few minutes, I could have that no matter what my situation.
posted by capricorn at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

There is something about this that is, not creepy exactly, just sort of gnawingly weird? Not the need for intimacy, or the appearance of it at least. First of all, whatever the reason it started as a company, in effect they're providing a service for people who are possibly desperately lonely, and/ marginalized, and/or socially anxious, and for them I imagine this service is a godsend, as the writer referenced about the girl being pregnant possibly to practice for a real-life conversation. It's that from one direction or another, they're probably coming from a pretty difficult place. It's like insta-therapist, almost. And for the people straight up pretending their friends they're some big player it's like this bizarro universe version of Ashley Madison. Although, come to think of it this could be a really useful thing for people in the closet, if being outed could cause them problems, and I guess for some it sounds like just having someone/anyone out there to drunk text or talk about taxidermy with.

But it's not the brief intimacy you can jump into easily with strangers via text--I think everyone on the Internet has experienced that. It's that this intimacy is with a pure fiction made up of interchangeable people doing the typing. And you know it's a fake persona! It's weirdly narcissistic in some ways--you create the role and then you have a puppet who acts exactly how you want. Again I recognize that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and can be super beneficial for a lot of people in a lot of ways--emotional prostitution like the article says. There's just something... uncanny valley of relationships about it. Maybe that's a thing I need to get over, maybe it really is just weird on some deep level. I dunno. Maybe it's just monetizing what people have done since the beginning of the internet: putting on a persona for a while and talking to a stranger. You used to be able to just go on IRC for that. Or MU*.

Which, given how many people explicitly love creating fake personas (for good or ill) online makes me wonder why they bother paying their workers at all--you'd think they could recruit from all over the place.

On preview capricorn said it way better.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:37 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I tried this I would probably get fired on my first day for trying to steer every conversation to a place where I could work in the lyrics to "Invisible Touch."

There's an extra 60 cents in it if you can work in a reference to "Invisible Sun," too.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:41 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't ever want to play the part
Of a "friend" bought by a KickStart
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:09 PM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It sounds like the hold-up isn't literally typing the text, but understanding the context and responding well. Reading the recent texts and finding something that fits. It seems like a "job" was just a single response to a person, meaning you'd always have to deal with new people and be getting into a new character for yourself.

They'd almost have to set it up like this because (a) they'd want their customers to be responded to quickly and (b) they can't require their customers to respond quickly enough to keep someone on the line, as it were.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

For a while I worked for the Any Question Answered service in the UK, which had a similar employment model to this. The trouble was that you had to stick to a certain style/approach, and questions could be quite esoteric - you got regular reviews, and would be penalised if you went 'off-brand' or the assessor could find an answer when you couldn't.

It encouraged you to spend as much time as possible on the answers, even when they would sometimes turn out to be unanswerable within their guidelines. All of this pushed your real wage down below minimum. And bear in mind, I believe we got 50p for each answer -- much more than in this setup.

So although the messages here are shorter, I presume they have at least some kind of strictures in place which makes it hard to grind out messages and earn a decent wage. Oh, and that's in addition to the emotional incentive to engage in at least some superficially human way with the messager in order to get at least some consolation from the job, which I found with AQA, and the writer mentions in the article.

Despite all that, it was a fun job from a 'human interest' perspective. The most common (and boring) were people asking for directions, and we got a lot of surreptitious messages from people obviously playing pub quizzes. But people would also ask for relationship advice, which presented a paradox of wanting to give them something useful, AskMe style, while knowing that every reply they sent was costing them £1 more. (If someone sent a text to complain about the service, it also cost them £1...)

They'd send trick questions, or riddles, which were usually a right pain to answer. They'd challenge us to say who they were, and we could often get surprisingly accurate with just the history of their previous questions. They'd flirt, which presented the challenge of jokingly dismissing it (or even subtly flirting back) without breaking the guidelines... and also while presenting the facade of a faceless internet machine. They'd ask how AQA worked, and it was fun to stone-facedly not-imply-but-sorta-actually-imply that we were extremely advanced computers.

Or they'd just ask random 'I wonder...' questions, and those were the most fun to quickly research and put together a satisfying and concise answer to. My favourite was my 160-character treatise on whether you could shoot a bullet into orbit from the moon (you can't, with existing weapons).

All in all, one of my more enjoyable terribly-paid-jobs!
posted by Drexen at 3:07 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would totally do this on the side if it paid a living wage.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:12 PM on July 9, 2015

Not sure how I feel that I probably *would* shell out to have a guaranteed conversation partner, except that I can't in any way afford it.
posted by pemberkins at 9:19 PM on July 9, 2015

I'd love to do this as "beer money."

(Hahaha I don't drink beer I'm poor. So I'd do this as real money.)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 8:25 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I tried this I would probably get fired on my first day for trying to steer every conversation to a place where I could work in the lyrics to "Invisible Touch."

There's an extra 60 cents in it if you can work in a reference to "Invisible Sun," too.

"Invisible" by Alison Moyet would be my lyrics of choice. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 1:07 AM on July 11, 2015

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