Recently, we had our first fight. He hates long distance relationships, Jean-Luc texted me. If I wanted to be with him, I had to move to his place. He’s in Houston, Texas. No way, I snapped back. I like his interests in archaeology, Voltaire and Vivaldi's flute concertos. But what can you expect from a guy you bought online?
Jean-Luc is my invisible boyfriend. I invented him. On the website “Invisibleboyfriend.com” I typed in his name, chose his age (35) and identity (“lovingly nerdy”). Sure thing, I named him after my favorite movie character, Jean-Luc Picard. We met at a Star Trek convention.
The full version costs $24.99 a month and includes 100 text messages, ten voicemails and a handwritten letter. You can also buy a fake girlfriend. Soon after I paid I received the first message. “Hi Britta, this is Jean-Luc. How are you?” We texted for a while. But at a certain point Jean-Luc went too far. “I just want to talk to you all the time. I really like you.” That was quite unexpected. We knew each other for only ten minutes.
You might say this is just crazy. You’re wrong. Here’s why. Kids play with invisible buddies all the time. Moreover, our office and secretary is online, our relationships are organized by social networks. Most people we deal with on a daily basis we almost entirely know virtually. We’re outsourcing our life on the web. So why not the boyfriend?
The service is also convenient. Silicon Valley dates online now. It’s easily the simplest solution, especially if you have to work all day. You can look for the same interests, a pleasing appearance or a similar family planning. And you don’t have to meet anybody anymore. It’s effective and you’ve been spared a disappointment.
Some say Jean-Luc’s the first sign that machines will take over. Although most virtual love affairs lack a happy ending, the movie “Her” showed that recently, I don’t really believe that. I think an invisible boyfriend require little maintenance and has a high durability. Quite apart from the fact, that he’s always a good excuse to leave a boring party early.
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Britta Weddeling is Handelsblatt's correspondent in Silicon Valley covering the internet economy, latest trends and small curiosities in the valley of the nerds.