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Depressing or pioneering? You decide.

March 17, 2017

Facebook and Instagram photos have long served as a kind of cultural cache for users — a measure of social status, however superficial.

Creating a perfect snapshot for social media does not always come together naturally, unless you find yourself constantly surrounded by professional photographers or traveling frequently to sun-soaked beaches. One Japanese company is offering a new solution for photo-seeking social media users: Rent a friend.

Real Appeal allows users to choose “friends” from a catalog to pose for their social media photos. They can sort by gender or other aesthetic preferences, and each friend costs 8,000 yen per person, or approximately $71 for two hours, a local Japanese news source reported. Users must also pay for each person’s travel costs, meaning the actual price could be much higher.

Social media users can employ Real Appeal not just to give the impression of having more friends but also to make ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends jealous, the Independent noted.

A testimonial on the website, translated from Japanese using Google, appears to rave about hiring 10 fake friends for a birthday party in a Tokyo hotel.

“After lightly drinking with a beautiful bar in the night view, I got a lot of boasted photographs,” wrote the anonymous user.

At the same time that Real Appeal seems to encourage users to buy into the idea of social cache through Facebook, several studies have linked usage of Facebook and Instagram to increased levels of depression and feelings of low self-esteem, NPR reported.

A University of Pittsburgh study found that active users of social media websites were three times as likely to feel depressed as their less active counterparts. Authors of the study noted that these results did not necessarily mean that Facebook was causing depression, however.

“It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void,” lead author Lui yi Lin wrote in a statement.

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