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Apps that simulate romance by letting women create “virtual boyfriends” are becoming a lucrative industry – but is it healthy to flirt with an imaginary guy? Young women in Japan are choosing computer-generated guys over the real thing, and the trend is spreading worldwide.
ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork points out that virtual boyfriends dress however you want, say what you want to hear, and stroke your ego. Looking for Mr. Right? “He just might be hanging out in the App Store, waiting for you.”
“This is a joke, right?” asks Plastic Surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon. The Doctors Special Correspondent Rosie Mercado says that she built her own virtual boyfriend – he looks just like her husband! She points out that you can insult your boyfriend or give him a virus – so she tried it and her virtual boyfriend dumped her! “It's creepy!” she says.
Dr. Stork points out that it's not highlighting the positive aspects of a relationship. OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry wonders what this is teaching pre-teens.
Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow thinks a virtual romance could be a healthy stepping-stone for people recovering from abusive relationships, but it shouldn't be a substitute for a real partner.
Dr. Stork wonders what will happen as the technology gets more sophisticated. “I think you're going to see an increase in this.” Will people choose a fake partner who seems real?
Dr. Dow has treated people who have had relationships with dolls and cars. The same hormone, oxytocin, that makes people fall in love with each other, can also create real attachments to inanimate objects.
“If you use one of these apps, just remember that it's an app, nothing more,” Dr. Stork concludes.