‘You could say I was selling him my emotions’. An inside look at Russia’s rental friendship industry

In the early 2010s, posts advertising so-called “friends for hire” began appearing on Russian-language websites. They allowed Internet users to pay an hourly fee for an apparently ordinary person to listen to them, give them emotional support, or simply chat for a while as though they really were an understanding longtime friend. This service, at least in its online iteration, was apparently invented in Japan, where even a husband or a daughter can be rented online. There are similar services available in Western countries as well. Journalist Anna Chesova explored Russia’s paid friendship industry from every possible angle exclusively for Meduza.