The term “love is blind” has become a more evident reality in the present time with the rise of virtual dating. In China, young people are using social media apps like WeChat to seek companionship in the form of virtual lovers. The cost for one of these virtual lovers can go up to $20 in a country where the minimum hourly wage is $3. However, this is not a new trend as the service has been available on Taobao, China’s largest online shopping platform, since 2014.
Virtual lovers made up of both male and female are hired to provide fake love with most of them being college students. While one would think that people are seeking for marriage, committed relationship, or sexual encounter through this service, that is not the case. Among suggested reasons for the popularity of virtual lover is the difficulty in opening up to friends or family in the culture as an attempt to save face. According to a vendor who operates a virtual lover service, up to 70% of customers are people paying to listen to their darkest secrets. Her business has been growing by 10% annually and can take up to 500 orders a month during the peak season.
Additionally, the popularity of virtual lover service also lies on the appeal of being able to unload emotionally to someone who has to take it all in, unlike a romantic partner who might have strong opinions. This makes the emotional traffic more one-way, and it is between a stranger, so there aren’t any strings attached. With China reaching a record high of 240 million single people in 2017, this growing trend is redefining courtship and the whole aspect of a romantic relationship.