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The latest addition to the commoditization of things? Friends.
“’With Uber, you rent a stranger’s car,’ he begins.
‘With Airbnb, you rent a stranger’s home.’ Mhmm.
‘With Ameego … you rent a stranger!’ What?
‘It’s a logical progression,’” Clay Kohut, founder of Ameego, told Caitlin Dewey in her most recent column for The Intersect at the Washington Post.
I truly don’t know if this is the case for most recently-graduated-from-college Millennials, but it’s true for Susie and me: making friends is hard. Granted, at the age of 23, we moved seven hours away from everything we’ve ever known—including our friends and family—and honestly, our social lives have tanked.
Before we moved away from home, we were hanging out with friends constantly, either together or separately. Now, we hang out with friends a couple of times a month, and most of our friends have kids, so our stages of life are different, which can make hanging out a bit tricky.
For many Millennials, friending on Facebook is easy; friending in real life is hard.
The creators of Ameego describe the app this way:
Ameego makes it easy to find and hang out with friendly local people. Browse your city’s socially-verified Ameego listings and request to hang out with awesome locals. Book and chat with local Ameegos inside of Ameego.
That makes total sense to me! Dewey writes concerning Millennial friendlessness in her article, citing some of the major causes of it:
…Our social networks have become less centralized, a change dating back to the aftermath of World War II. Where close ties were once based on strict geographic locations — a neighborhood, an office, a church — people have become more mobile, and their networks both more individualized and more ambiguous.
Add to that the peculiar wrinkles of growing up in the aughts — an economythat’s kept many living with parents or, alternately, moving far from the people they know; a collapse of institutional power that’s left many without a local social hub — and it’s little surprise that 11 percent of adults aged 18 to 37 claim their relationships with friends don’t bring them happiness. Many belong to vast social networks, with ties that span multiple countries and life stages; but they don’t, on any given day, have anybody to hang out with.
I don’t think that Susie and I will be paying for Ameego when it is made available in Nashville, but for Millennials who have moved away from friends and aren’t married, and perhaps aren’t connected to something like the local church, I completely understand why a few instant friends is worth a few bucks.
Dewey cites Kohut, the founder of Ameego, admitting that paying for friends isn’t ideal:
Kohut will admit, if reluctantly, that not all things should be commodified. (In fact, his hope for Ameego is that, after a few hours of paid companionship, the professional friend and his client will become pals in real life.) But he also realizes, like any savvy entrepreneur, that he’s offering a service valuable enough that some people will pay for it. After all, what millennial hasn’t found herself friendless or flaked-on at some point, thumbing desperate texts to a BFF who’s still in Pittsburgh or Des Moines?
I so resound with this sentiment. As much as I love my wife, it can be miserable binge-watching our latest Netflix show on a Friday night, remember late nights of board games, pool parties, and fire pits with life-long friends. It’s still hard to think about. I crave times like this when we visit home. If you’re far away from home or having trouble finding people like yourself, something like Ameego isn’t out of the question.
People find friends in all sorts of creative ways. Consider Meetups, where you can participate in activities in your city to meet people who like those same activities. Ameego isn’t all too different from something like that. You’re just paying for a more person-specified service delivered to your phone.
People have been Internet dating—successfully(!)—for decades, and it’s becoming less and less taboo. Consider this stat from Pew:
Think about the way you first reacted (maybe still react?) to paying for online dating via Match.com or EHarmony. I remember it sounding ridiculous to me. But plenty of people have found spouses on those sorts of services.
While I’m sure many online dating users would prefer to meet someone in real life before online, paying for a service like Match.com was better than nothing! Ameego seems to be in a similar spot.
Would you rather find friends in real life like at your church, workplace, or otherwise? Of course. But if you’re having trouble getting connected with someone in real life, why not turn to an app like Ameego to find other 24-year-old guys in your area who love Settlers of Catan and Breaking Bad, even if it costs a little money to do so?
Is Ameego awful? Not inherently, no.
Is Ameego silly? Not if it makes money.
Is Ameego necessary? No, not at all.
Is Ameego a good way to make friends? Could be!
Could someone use Ameego to rip you off and kill you? Of course they could, but your plumber could do that, too.
Finding friends via a service like Ameego just makes sense in our present cultural climate. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a wholly positive or wholly negative phenomenon.
It will be interesting to see if Ameego, or similar apps, take hold. I won’t be surprised, or overly concerned, if they do.