You know I hate to ask, but are friends rented?

Monday, 11 October, 2010

The rent a friend concept – something I linked to a few months back – whereby people offer their time to those who are looking for some simple – no strings attached – company has certainly polarised opinion.

While some think the idea undermines genuine friendships, there is no shortage of people signing up and willing to act the friend, for a fee of course. Interestingly a number of these pay-by-the-hour companions see the system as a way of meeting potential friends themselves, according to Jenny Tam, a New York based friend-for-hire:

“I’d definitely be open to transitioning from being a rented friend to a regular friend, but I haven’t met anyone I like enough to do that yet.”

The CEO of one such stand-in friend agency, Scott Rosenbaum, founder of “Rent a friend”, believes the service his company offers is almost essential in a society where it is becoming ever harder to meet people simply for friendship:

“No, we are helping people,” says Mr Rosenbaum. “As the internet has replaced face-to-face time, there are a lot of people out there who want to get out and socialise with new people but it has got harder to meet people.”

The idea has its detractors though, those who feel that the concept denigrates the true essence of friendships:

“A rent-a-friend is an oxymoron, friendship is something which by its very nature is nurtured and deepens over time,” says psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert. “I can’t imagine it feels good to know that you are paying by the hour. “There are so many more natural ways to meet people – through a dance class, church, cookery or language classes. This is for someone who values time, convenience and efficiency perhaps at the expense of deeper, more genuine relationships.”

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