Letter From The Editor

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Here at Metro, my coworkers like to tease me that I have a habit of meeting strangers from the Internet.

They’re not exactly wrong. But the Internet has been good to me — I found my first job and countless roommates on Craigslist. I also have connected with sources for stories on Craigslist, Tinder and various forums.

But when I heard about RentAFriend.com, a website where users actually rent people out, I couldn’t help but think that the whole thing sounded weird. There are things like Meetup.com where people can meet friends — why rent when you can have something more permanent for free? That a site like this had managed to attract more than 600,000 people willing to rent out their friendship (let alone the people who want to rent them) was surprising to me. Why would someone want to rent a friend? Why would someone want to rent themselves out?

To find out, I started calling some of the people signed up as friends here on Oahu, and went on some friend dates of my own. See the story here.

From what I was able to gauge, most people on the site — the members, of course, but also the friends — were all looking for some sort of connection. The most pressing question, then, is can you have a genuine connection with someone on the site?

I think my favorite anecdote that I heard from the various friends on the site came from the man who got hired by a guy just to exchange emails with him. He speculated, from his time corresponding with him, that his new email friend was kind of awkward, and maybe had a hard time making friends.

If he gets to talk with someone and enjoy the conversation, does it matter that he’s paying for each word?