“Yellobel” is a cute blonde with a great smile. For $5 she will post on your Facebook wall about how much she misses you. “No one will question whether or not I exist because you can say I’m in school out of state!” she explains on her profile. “I’ll say how I haven’t looked at any other guys and wish you would come visit me!” For just a Lincoln, she will change her Facebook status to say that she’s in a relationship with you, “let you” publicly break up with her on the social networking site or post on your wall demanding to know why your status still says “single” (“Nothing makes you look more desirable than having someone who’s obsessed with you”).
“Yellobel” is an Internet-girlfriend-for-hire.
In the midst of the confusing Manti Te’o saga, everyone is talking about online deception — from people being “Catfish”-ed to “love scammed.” But what about services that offer up relationship fakery? A handful of such sites have exploded in just the last couple of years. GirlfriendHire.com, where “Yellobel” plies her virtual wares, is just one of them. The site’s front page is filled with thumbnails of young women advertising various services. A giggling brunette promises, “I will text you and keep your phone buzzing!” A blonde posing on the beach offers to pretend to be “your foreign girlfriend.” Another woman asks, “Wanna make your buddies jealous that you have a smokin hot girlfriend? Not a problem.”
“Yellobel” explains her motivation to me in an email, “I just wanted an easy way to make a little extra money.” And her customers just want an easy way to look desirable. Ah, capitalism!
Another woman on Girlfriend Hire, “annjoy,” tells me in an email, “I work 60 hours a week at two jobs to pay my student loans and I still don’t earn enough to pay the minimums. So one day I googled ‘simple way to earn money’ and after thumbing through a lot of pages, a lot about medical studies, I found the site.” She says she’s earned $60 since starting in June. Her most popular offering is to text back and forth with a customer for a week for $5. “But I require it to remain PG,” she says. “I don’t like guys talking dirty to me. Plus I have a boyfriend but I don’t tell the guys that.” Some men want to talk to her about their relationships, others want her to help them make their girlfriend jealous.
Ricky Robinett, a Web developer and the 28-year-old creator of FakeGirlfriend.com, tells me that he started the site after asking himself, “What’s the stupidest thing I can build?” He designed a way for people to pay to receive a series of stock, as well as customizable, text messages. The generic ones include things like, “I miss you honey! xoxo. (:,” and “Why don’t you leave the boys and come hang out with me?”
It’s unclear what happened in the Te’o scandal (and certainly there are zero indications that the football player used a fake girlfriend service), but the case does highlight just how easy and convincing online romantic deception can be — whether it’s the “boyfriend” getting duped or his entire social network. Fake relationships aren’t an advent of the Internet age — just ask Jan Brady — but they are a whole hell of a lot easier to pull off. In the age of social networking, it’s no longer necessary to simply tell stories about a “girlfriend in Canada.” Now you can hire a girl in Canada to tell the stories for you — all over your Facebook wall and Twitter feed.