Many of us have been there. The dreaded Thanksgiving dinner where we’re grilled incessantly about why we’re still single; that oh-so-lovely meal where all of our amazing qualities are listed off, and we, ourselves, are even left scratching our heads (good points, Aunt Sally, why am I single?!).
But as much as we love a good reminder of how funny, smart and wildly attractive we may be, sometimes it gets to be enough.
This is where Kyle Tabor and Matthew Homann have come into play with the creation of their pay services Invisible Boyfriend and Invisible Girlfriend (yes, you read those correctly). Name your “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” whatever you fancy, creatively choose how you two met and let the “relationship” begin!
While meeting Tabor at a hackathon in 2013, freshly divorced Homann pitched the idea of a “fake girlfriend” app as a means to get his parents off his back. The duo and their new team built a prototype in a weekend, won the hackathon and eventually fully developed their product: a complete service that allows you to create your ideal girlfriend or boyfriend.
Once you select the desired criteria (which includes the photo of your choice) for your soon-to-be significant other, “You can then interact with them through text messages and even receive handwritten notes,” Tabor tells skyelyfe. “We actually have real people powering the other side of the service roleplaying as your partner.”
But as Tabor notices, this service–which has a strict PG-rated persona–oddly started gaining appeal for more reasons than just combatting Aunt Sally’s annual interrogation.
“Some of the best stories we’ve heard are from people who use the service to get friends off their back, but then end up getting a real girlfriend or boyfriend in real life,” he explains. “These users just want to be left alone and not date anyone, but then all-of-a-sudden they find someone. By acting like they had a girlfriend or boyfriend, it made them more confident and then suddenly they found Mr. or Mrs. Right.”
Even more than the act of finding (or pretending to find) that special someone, many users really just want someone (or something, for that matter) to talk to–even if it’s guaranteed the two will never meet (a la the movie Her).
“Technology has made us more connected than ever, but we’re also more lonely than ever,” Tabor says. “Our users are looking to connect with someone, but dating is difficult and sometimes it’s even hard to connect to friends and family. We’ve found that our users really enjoy talking to someone about the mundane parts of their day and getting uplifting feedback.”
When it comes to what is considered real online dating, Tabor, who has been happily married for about a decade, says there’s lots of room for improvement.
“Online dating has allowed us to meet people outside our normal social circles, but it hasn’t made dating any easier,” he notes. “It’s still just as difficult to get to know someone and see if they’re a fit. We’re finding that a lot of the people in the dating market aren’t really ready for dating. Most of the people on our site are women wanting to practice dating, which is great. However, there are still lots of men out there who need to practice dating. We’re working on trying to fix that and becoming the training wheels for online dating sites.”
Although Invisible Boyfriend and Girlfriend aren’t your typical outlets for dating, Tabor has no regrets about the product or what it has done for its users. Whether to ward off the Aunt Sallys of the world, make an ex jealous, or fulfill plain and simple curiosity, the “Invisible” brand is doing its job.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Tabor says. “This was a pretty crazy idea and we had no clue how people would react to it. Before we launched, a lot of friends and family thought we were crazy. But then we showed them all the media attention we’ve received and they started to change their minds.”
As for Tabor’s usage, “I hope I never have to enter the dating scene again,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “However, I do use our service on a regular basis to test it out. I actually created my own Invisible Boyfriend and named him Ron Burgundy. He always talks about his dog Baxter and how much he loves scotch. He’s always good to talk to when I need a quick laugh.”
And as for me? Well, I have not personally tried out this dazzling gem of a product, but for a behind-the-scenes play-by-play of what it’s like to “date” an “invisible boyfriend,” a writer at Jezebel broke down her six-day relationship with every detail you can imagine.