- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 04 February 2015
College is finally the appropriate age where students are actually expected to snag a serious partner. Going home for holiday breaks equals relatives asking questions about your dating life. Societal pressure often leads to our generation dramatizing the rush of relationships. How many times have you said to friends: (or saw and rolled your eyes on Twitter,” “It’s cuffing season. “ “Where’s bae?” or “I’m going to be a cat lady.”
Of course, the idea of dating, settling down with someone and marriage has been a common ideal throughout history. It is actually more accepted nowadays to put a career ahead of marriage.
However, something about our age group that also sets this particular societal need apart from other generations is the access to different avenues that can develop relationships.
For one, apps like Tinder have surely changed the dating game. It certainly can be argued that online dating and dating apps have made it easier for people to find a significant other.
But now the search for love has an even more effortless way out of its complications with the introduction of these new apps: Invisible Boyfriend and Invisible Girlfriend. For $24.99, users can customize and receive a fake “significant other” and will get text messages, voicemails and photos. People can also submit photos of themselves to become someone else’s fake boyfriend or girlfriend.
Both Invisible Boyfriend and Girlfriend’s websites claim the app “gives you real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship - even if you’re not - so you can get back to living life on your own terms.”
Basically, it’s a way to avoid those dreaded questions from people inquiring about your relationship status.
“In a strange way, and although very different, this reminds me of the Tamagotchi virtual pet craze of the 1990s,” said Mary Harris, a specialist professor of communication who lectures numerous courses in social media.
According to the Washington Post, CrowdSource, a tech company in St. Louis with 200,000 employees, operates the app’s texting service. This allows for real people to send the text messages rather than users receiving automatic generic messages.
Dr. Gary Lewandowski, Psychology Chair, explained a theory behind why society creates apps like this.
“As humans, we have a fundamental need to belong and use relationships to help us fulfill that need. In the absence of meaningful human relationship, electronic substitutes can arise. In a way, this is similar to the idea of unrequited love, where you love someone from afar without them knowing about it and/or reciprocating. Though it isn’t a “real” relationship, it helps fulfill that need for a relationship.”
This fulfillment in which a sham relationship suffices as a legitimate one could be questionable.
Harris highlighted another reason behind the creation of these apps. “I think developers of apps like this are attempting to create unique digital experiences that people can be entertained by and pass the time with.”
Even though the app just suggests easing social pressure, it could have more consequences.
Jessica Ketch, a senior psychology student pointed out a positive of the app. “I think the app may give people who are inexperienced in the dating world a chance to get familiar with the scene and gain experience with dating without the serious commitment to someone.” she said.
On the other hand, there is definitely reason to see it as potential for destruction.
“However, the app will probably create false expectations and a distorted reality of the actual dating world. You can’t go to the boyfriends-R-us store and make your own boyfriend who is 100 percent perfect in the real world. Also, becoming attached to someone that is not really your significant other does not seem healthy.” Ketch continued.
Ketch also pointed out the possible determent from engaging in real romance. “People may miss opportunities to be with someone who actually cares for them because they are too tuned into their fake significant other. Overall, I don’t think the app is psychologically healthy for anyone. It seems like a quick fix to fill someone’s void of not having a significant other even though having a significant other should not define your happiness.”
Jackie Leming, a senior health studies major said, “Having to pretend you have a boyfriend or girlfriend is not mentally healthy. You are allowing yourself to develop feelings for someone who is not real and does not actually exist or love you. We are becoming so consumed with social media and apps that we are letting them take the place of real life.”
Similar to Ketch and Leming, in this case, Harris believes too much technology can be a bad thing.
“In my humble opinion, we have gone too far. There is too much technology out there that influences people to waste time on unimportant things rather than live a real, fulfilling life. This particular app is concerning because I think there could be the potential for psychological harm for users of the app. As people learn more about the app, hopefully they will see how disturbing it is that a fake person is texting and communicating with them, creating a false sense reality of their dream partner - a manufactured lie.” Harris said.
According to a study called The Psychology of Love, immersing yourself in overly romantic media has at least proven to have negative effects on relationships. This research correlates to the false fantasies the app gives the users.
Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post admittedly tested out the app and confessed her quick fall for her fake boyfriend. “I’ve been using the service for 24 hours, and I gotta wonder: How can you not fall in love with him?” She went on to write about the perfect messages her fake boyfriend sent and the lure of it being personalized since a real person is behind the affectionate words.
While the appeal of a bogus boyfriend may seem bizarre to some, it will certainly bring others to try out the app. That might be simply out of curiosity or to ward off dating interrogations from family members.
For those desperately seeking love, maybe it will provide some psychological fulfillment. Before users fall head over heels, however, they should beware: don’t forget that the significant other is phone-y.
IMAGE TAKEN from Washington Post