A few years ago I came across an article about a Japanese agency “Friends for the Hour” where you can hire an actor who will pretend to be your relative or friend. With increasing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, I wondered if something like this exists in Russia. It turned out that everything you can imagine exists on Avito. (*Avito is a platform to buy and sell used items from clothes to furniture, from plants to technics etc)

“Companion for an hour is a unique service. Its essence is that I am ready to listen to you, look at the situation from the outside and give advice. It is easier to communicate with a companion for an hour than with a psychologist. You do not come to the office of a person to whom you are obliged to fully open up, but he will only make notes in his notebook “, — this is how the description of the service “friend for an hour” looks like in one of the profiles on Avito.

The range of inquiries to “companions” is wide: from misunderstanding in family and financial problems to eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, phobias, abusive relationships; issues related to orientation and sexuality (for many, this is still a taboo in discussing with the loved ones). Some people are looking for opportunities to satisfy their erotic fantasies on Avito.

Often, both parties in this communication are convinced that “friends will not help, because they are always busy, tend to lecture and reproach, ” and everything a person needs is to be listened without evaluation and condemnation. When placing ads, the companions pursue different goals: from the hope of making money on it to pumping their own communication skills or a sincere need to help others. Or, as one of the heroes of my photographs said: “I wanted to help myself.”