Culture

Website Allows You to 'Rent A Friend' — Don't Worry, It's Platonic

For a cheap $10 an hour, and with a monthly membership fee, you can “rent” a social companion to hang out with, to enjoy a movie or restaurant with, or to show you around a new city. Whether you’re feeling lonely on a Friday night, or you’re an inveterate extrovert who can’t meet enough new people, or you’re just looking for the next social media phenomenon — RentAFriend.com is for you!

“As of Friday August 12, 2016, there are over 621,585 Friends available for rent worldwide,” the website boldly proclaims. The friends are available for all sorts of purposes, but NOT for romance, dating, or sex.

The site’s “about” page lays out the ground rules: “RentAFriend.com is strictly a platonic Friendship website. RentAFriend.com is NOT a dating website, and NOT an Escort agency. Services on RentAFriend.com are strictly for FRIENDSHIP purposes only.” This rule clarifies the boundaries, and while it is impossible to entirely weed out perverts or people desperately looking for love, it gives the site a more relaxed atmosphere, and a less emotional mission.

The website suggests various reasons to “rent” a friend: to hang out, to share a restaurant or movie with, to bring someone to a social event, even to teach you a new skill or hobby, to show you around an unfamiliar town, and even to introduce you to a new religion.

“They can teach you a new language, tutor you, share a new hobby, art, dance, and much more. It’s also a great way to meet people of different cultures and religions,” the website explains. Perhaps it would be a good place for New York Times reporters to meet committed evangelical Christians and to understand the nuances of their faith. Or, on the flip-side, it would be a good place for an evangelical to find someone who is openly gay, in order to hear about their struggles and perhaps preach the Gospel.

Another great use for the site would be to find a workout partner who shares your interests. “Renting a Friend to help motivate and spot you during your workout … can also be a lot cheaper than hiring a personal trainer,” the site helpfully suggests. I’m sure personal trainers love to read that line…

The site allows you to search for friends for free, but in order to contact them, you must become a member. While most friends start out at just $10 an hour, “almost all of them are willing to negotiate or even waive their fees depending on the activity you are planning with them.”

RentAFriend.com may be a surprising and unorthodox idea — perhaps even unnerving to some. (After all, the way they capitalize “Friend” throughout the site is a bit creepy.) But the ability to search and find people with similar interests in an environment made for that purpose, and not tainted by the pressure of romantic involvement can be a helpful tool for nearly anyone.

With a little luck, sites like this can help strengthen society and encourage more people to come together over shared interests, and develop long-term friendships.

Check out the video on the next page!