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"We're more at ease with platonic friendships than we were 25 years ago," she says, before pointing out that such relationships can be fraught with problems."You have to do a lot of soul-searching to explore your motives for looking for this kind of connection," she says."People are less connected to communities," he says."It is easier to feel lonely." Technology, far from being part of the solution, is in fact part of the problem, says Dorling."While the technology is there to advertise for friends, it shouldn't be a sneaky way of getting relationship needs filled by someone else."Society has such fluid boundaries these days, it can be hard to differentiate between friendships and affairs," she warns.But Scott Rosenbaum thinks that Rentafriend taps into a universal need, and is expanding the service worldwide, raising the prospect of a planet where friendship is commodified and the easiest way a making a new chum is to buy one on the net. "We are all social animals, afraid of being cast out," says Danny Dorling."We are trying to adapt to a fragmented social environment that is very alien to the one we evolved to live in." Fortunately, he says, there is some good news. Men particularly think that no one wants to hear their stories.

She's looking for someone to chat to "so when I go there, I will have someone to know and help me understand the culture".But it is easier than you think to make new friends. We need to devote more of it to other people." Tall Mature Guy would be willing to give up some time."I am very sociable and have some wonderful friends," he says in an email."It requires a high level of trust to allow a partner to have a so-called platonic relationship." Famously, Billy Crystal's character in the film When Harry Met Sally opines that men and women can never be friends "because the sex part always gets in the way".But for the most part, the Rentafriend phenomenon is not about members of the opposite sex getting together.

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