I was past what I felt was the average age when I started my first serious relationship. Up to that point, I definitely received questions from friends about whether or not I was dating or had met anyone new in the various towns where I lived. My parents would also comment on the issue, but on the whole, I never felt pressured to find a significant other. For those who do feel pressured and who cannot seem to find someone special, however, there is a website that may help them out.
The site is called Invisible Girlfriend (it has a companion site, Invisible Boyfriend), and it seeks to provide people with proof that they are dating without requiring that those people actually find a real person to date. The summation at the top of the Invisible Girlfriend page states it as follows: “Invisible Girlfriend gives you real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship — even if you’re not — so you can get back to living life on your own terms.”
The site is currently in a testing phase, so the real-world and social proof it offers is minimal. It helps users create stories about how they met their invisible girlfriends and allows them to share photos and text conversations with others. It even offers the ability to chat with a virtual significant others in real time through text messages.
Creators of the service say the end goal of Invisible Girlfriend is to help users create lifelike stories that they can know inside and out and that they can share with whoever they desire. It mentions “curious mom,” “buddies,” and “coworkers” as some of the groups of people who may want to know about a person’s relationship status.
As real as this may seem to others, though, it is ultimately fake. There is no real girlfriend (or boyfriend) users can take on dates. The virtual person will never be able to attend functions their other friends or coworkers attend, and it will never be able to come home to mom. And unfortunately for mom’s potential hopes, the only possibility of family life is a virtual family life.
Users must ask themselves how much they want to lie to their friends and family. There are only so many outcomes that this service can help create. If a user wants to keep this service a secret, he can fake his relationship indefinitely and continue to lie for that period, or he can drop the first virtual girlfriend, pick up another virtual girlfriend from the same site, and simply create another backstory for the breakup and subsequent meeting. Assuming he eventually meets someone in real life and wants to continue to keep this a secret, he would then have to lie to his real-world girlfriend about “dating” a virtual service.
For friends, mom, and the real-world girlfriend, that is no way to build or maintain trust. The service may be able to create a credible story with actual photos and real, but simulated, text conversations, but it is unable to avoid the web of lies it must create. Users will always be buried under that web, and it is hard to imagine friends or family being fine with that notion.
Invisible Girlfriend could follow one more path: It could allow a user to engage in a behavior that was, to him, realistic. Instead of using the service to create a virtual girlfriend to present to prodding friends, he could actually date the service. The Frequently Asked Questions portion of the website suggests that it could send users gifts, personalized notes, flowers, social media connections, and more. Although it does not yet offer those things, there is no limit, given a substantial demand for the service, to what the site could accomplish.
Yet, the fact remains that we do not live in a society that mirrors one of the movie “Her” in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a lonely writer, Theodore, who eventually falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system. Many characters in the movie accept this fact, and it turns out that a sizeable amount of the population ends up in similar situations. In short, it is an accepted way of life.
In this real life, though, something like that will be on the fringe, and if the closest we can come is the Invisible Girlfriend service, users will not have nearly the amount of social feedback that viewers see generated in “Her.” In addition, users here pay for the services of being sent gifts and photos, so they are simply paying someone else to send them flowers for their own satisfaction. It is like calling the flower shop to send oneself a bouquet.
Invisible Girlfriend does not take the position that users will fall in love with their virtualized others — “seems a bit far-fetched,” it says — and it may be a usable, short term method of fooling one’s nagging parents or friends into thinking a relationship is taking place. Still, in the end, it is all about lies, and that is something users will have to come to terms with in one way or another.
Image courtesy of Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons