Model mates are hired for a mere €32 an hour
A Japanese company called Family Romance has launched a new service called Real Appeal, which allows people to rent fake friends that will appear in their Instagram and Facebook photos in a bid to look more popular.
"Friends" are chosen from a photo catalogue, and clients can specify certain characteristics, such as gender, age and even fashion sense.
Models are booked by the hour for 4,000 yen (€32), with a minimum two hour booking required by the company.
Sample scenarios are given on the website to show just what kind of social setting might need some extra friends to be photographed, such as a birthday party, a weekend trip to the seaside, or even a general outing with an attractive model in order to make an ex-lover jealous.
The company say that they receive an average of 100 requests per month for their rent-a-friend service, and they even offer fake family members and seat fillers for weddings and business seminars.
One online testimony on the website says: "I asked 10 delegate staff as friends and asked me to have my birthday party at a famous hotel in the city. I got a lot of boasted photographs, including decorating back to the room, doing wild life by drinking and reworking, preparing a big cake at the surprise.
"I have been having a good time since I was busy recently, and I was able to upload good photos for facebook and twitter as well."
Online comments about the Family Romance website have said that it paints a bleak picture of of modern Japanese life, as reports show that Japanese people are known to prioritise work over anything else - in some cases even working themselves to death in a phenomenon known as Karoshi.
A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh found that social media is actually making us lonelier.
Elizabeth Miller, co-author of the study said that:
“It's possible that young adults who initially felt socially isolated turned to social media. Or it could be that their increased use of social media somehow led to feeling isolated from the real world.”