Dave Lee, a technology reporter at BBC News, experimented with hiring a women for $5 in order to get the coveted Facebook status: ‘In a relationship with’. “Sophia” – not her real name – offers her services as a make-believe girlfriend through the website Fiverr. According to Lee, many men hire fake girlfriends to look better on social networking sites or to make their exes jealous. Though Sophia was not real, for a few days she was “real” to Lee’s friends and acquaintances on Facebook.
This phenomenon raises two issues. The first is related to Jean Baudrillard’s theories in ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. The fact or truth that she is virtual is unimportant as long as it is or looks real and gives you the desired results: Making your exes jealous or showing off that you have a gorgeous boy/girlfriend. Simultaneous mass information spread on social networking services creates hyperreality, a sense of the “real” that has no origin or actual reality. It is probably the same phenomenon that causes Wikipedia to be so influential, and people tend to perceive information from it as ‘true’ regardless of its actual accuracy.
The second issue is that similar to virtual prostitution in Second Life. ‘Virtual escorting’ uses human intelligence for tasks that computers are currently unable to do, such as writing romantic posts or leave flirtatious comments. Crowdsourcing internet marketplaces, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, are an example of the coordination between virtual space and anonymous human labor. Virtual escorting may be an indication that the employee/employer relationship is shifting from an industrial model to a next natural model.