Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix
When Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her hit the big screen, no one could have guessed how the fictional relationship between a human and an operating system could become a reality in the future. But now China’s popular e-commerce website Taobao is selling just that to lonely, young men looking for virtual companionship.
For just RMB 20 (US $3.26), you, too, can have the “girlfriend experience” through WeChat. As part of the service, you will be pampered with sweet morning wake-up calls, good night calls and be given a patient listener willing to hear all of your problems 24 hours a day, the report said. The new service is apparently all the rage in China at the moment.
A search of the term “virtual lover” into one e-commerce website generated more than 1,300 results of shops offering the service. One such shop has had 1,695 transactions since August 21, the newspaper said.
Men can choose different types of girlfriends, from a girl next door-type, diva, intellectual and even a “Lolita”. The service charges can range from RMB 20 a day to RMB 500 a month. The development of the “relationship” is categorized into three stages, namely the “knowing each other” stage, the “crazy in love” stage and the final stage in which a user can have “relationships” with, not just one, but three girls at the same time, one of the shop owners told the newspaper.
A screen grab of one of the shops on Taobao that sells the virtual girlfriend service.
The RMB 20 package means the client can chat with a girlfriend for at least 100 messages or speak with her over the phone. In the second stage, the girlfriend will send the client a photo of herself and express feelings to help give the man the illusion “he is crazily in love with the girl”, said the shop owner. However, the newspaper said the final stage service is relatively new, and nobody has purchased it yet. That’s okay though, because the third stage is the most boring in real life, too.
Once the service is completed, the girlfriend is requested to cut off contacts with clients, deleting him from her WeChat account and not to not have revealed her real name or address in order to protect privacy, the shop owner said.
To serve China’s large pool of singles, Taobao has already launched girlfriend rental services for Valentine’s Day and Spring Festival. The new virtual girlfriend service is expected to gain a huge following with a generation of people who have no time and energy for real relationships.
Photos: Warners Bros, Taobao, MIT Technology Review