NeoBytes :) Lonely? Get a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend for just $3 a day!

NeoBytes :) is an occasional feature that takes a step back from the big headlines, to take a look at what else is happening in the vast, scary expanse of the tech world - often with a cynical eye, always with a dose of humour.

Looking for love in this big, scary world can be a long and lonely endeavour, and it doesn't help when even internet dating sites start screwing around with your chances of finding 'the one'. But if you've had enough of the dating game, and just yearn for some company, then why not pay for it? 

No... not like that (honestly, you've all got such dirty minds...). As Chinese news site Dayoo reports (via Want China Times), the services that are now being offered to lonely hearts are far more innocent, but still come with a price tag attached. 

Sellers on Taobao - China's largest e-commerce website - have begun offering virtual girlfriend and boyfriend services via their mobile phones. The services are provided by real people rather than automated avatars or chat programs, and cost around 20-30 CNY (roughly $3-$5 USD) per day. 

For that amount, your paid partner will speak to you on the phone, and send you text messages and IMs, listening to you moan about how bad your day was, telling you how wonderful you are, and wishing you sweet dreams before you go to sleep. Customers can even select the type of ideal man or woman that they choose to get involved with, so to speak - including "girl next door", "mature woman", "men in uniform" or "comforting men." 

For those offering the services, it's hard work - but worth it. One lady, who goes by the nickname Xiaomi (no relation, we presume), said that she decided to become a virtual girlfriend in order to increase the number of people who visited her store on Taobao. It's worked too - from fewer than ten transactions per day, demand has exploded to over 500 a day. 

But Xiaomi has to work long and awkward hours to keep it all going. Calls and messages from customers can come at any time, and she has to get up early to make wake-up calls to customers who like to speak to her first thing in the morning. But her business is growing, and she has hired seven more women to help satisfy demand for the service. 

The whole thing may sound a little desperate to some, but the customers seem to like it. "You just spend 20 to 30 yuan a day to make a single man's dream come true!" said one customer. "100 likes!" 

The service may not be for everyone - but hey, it probably beats calling the speaking clock when you're lonely.

Source: Want China Times via BBC News | Woman using phone image via Shutterstock; upper image via Want China Times

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Instead of virtual gf/bf, how about virtual geek? someone who gets paid 3 to 5 dollars a day to listen to me go on about articles I read on neowin and other websites :-)

And you get recorded, tracked and your whole private world is exposed to everyone. Great service. Maybe I'm jaded but I wouldn't confide in anyone such as this. If I just want to say hello to someone I'll go to the corner store and buy a newspaper.

I have a feeling this will be a very successful site. I would venture to guess that it would be successful even here in the US.

It's bizarre, I can see this being ok for a lot of people.
When you're in a relationship, it's lovely waking up to a "Hope you have a fantastic day! :)" txts and it's something I've really missed when I've been single.
tho.. the difference is that the messages I've received have been "real" as opposed to fake. If there's no real feeling of affection behind it, I'm not sure it'd have the same meaning.

That said... real relationships require a lot of hard work & I guess it's nice to have some of the benefits of a relationship whist still being single.

I could totally see both guys and girls, even if they already have significant others, being willing to pay what is basically the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks a day to to have someone actually pretend to give a ###### about what they're talking about.

...Or perhaps you could just unplug from all the electronics for a while and go outside to meet a real human face to face. Crazy, I know.

It is amazing how humans have survived quite well all those millennia without virtual friends. It is human nature to be social, and experience friendships and relationships face to face... not crouched over a lifeless phone. Go to the park or beach, play cards around a table, go camping, go play a sport, shop, find a hobby, smile and laugh with real people, and everyone will benefit from interacting with each other.

I think that people who purchase this service would wind up feeling more depressed and lonely because in the back of their mind will always be the nagging truth that their relationship is not real.

Yeah, but those relationships are hard. People get mad at you when you misbehave and they don't always laugh at your jokes. Sometimes they irritate you.

MikeChipshop said,
Damn site cheaper than my real life one.
Did I just hear someone mumble a phrase "take my money already"?

Wonder how long until this branches out to the usa and europe... Could be a big money maker if you have the time

To be honest, it's a service that many people would pay. Most people want to be heard and there are so little individuals on this world that care enough to listen to other human beings.

Jose_49 said,
To be honest, it's a service that many people would pay. Most people want to be heard and there are so little individuals on this world that care enough to listen to other human beings.
Don't count me in. I prefer to live far far far away from people who crave such social hunger.