My Ex is 8 years younger than me and bears more than a faint resemblance to Meg Ryan . . . in her prime. So it was neither a surprise nor cause for concern when even younger women began striking up conversations with me shortly after I joined Match. It did become a concern later once I noticed a suspicious pattern.
Almost every woman who contacted was 28-years-old. Not 27. Not 29. Not 35 or any other age. Exactly 28. And almost always they were standing in front of some European monument. None of this was suspicious in itself. No, it wasn’t until these striking similarities were coupled with a few other signs that I started to scratch my head.
Almost every one of them claimed to be on a trial membership that prevented them from emailing me via Match. To circumvent this limitation, they provided their email address in their profile, only it wasn’t their email address per se. It was a phonetic representation of it.
Something like this:
IMGR8inbed (at) gee male (dot) com
They also provided their phone numbers for texting to expedite the process of getting acqainted.
Being an idiot and a novice, I gave out my number to one of these “women” (I’ll tell you why “women” is in quotes shortly). Less than ten seconds later, I received a text with an advertisement in it. I never heard from the Match member. But I sure did start receiving spam via my texting service. I quickly modified my behavior, and began toying with these women.
If they favorited me, I favorited them. If they liked me, I liked them back. If they wanted to start texting, however, I strung them along a bit. And this is where it got interesting. I’d ask them when they had last been in Europe? They’d kind of hem and haw until they figured out that I’d identified the monument in their profile pic. Then I’d ask them what they were up to now. “Going to school” was always the answer. Never mentioned kids, family, or friends. Just school. They enjoyed school.
This is interesting for two reasons. All of the things that make up our lives – kids, family, the gym, work, grocery shopping, TV, holidays, birthdays, etc all constitute the background sounds of our lives. “Noise” we hear going on in the background of the messages we share with each other. None of these noises were ever present in the background of the messages sent by the 28-year-old “women.” Just school. School is pretty quiet. It kind of speaks for itself, and, when it doesn’t, the types of questions that arise are easily batted away because we’ve all been in school before.
Indeed, some of us really are still in school.
Which brings me to my hypothesis.
I do think these “women” were in fact students. I think they found some sort of “work from home” deal where the objective was for them to score as many phone numbers as possible so that ads could be texted to the owners. Most of these students, perhaps all of them, very well could have been male. None of them wrote with any kind of femininity. The prose was very flat and lifeless, kind of like a guy.
Eventually I would tell these members I didn’t think they were real people, at least not the same people they were representing in their profiles. Other members must have told them the same thing, a few may have even started reporting them, because the day after I called them out, their profiles had disappeared.
What a silly little game. I’m sure phone numbers only scraped the surface of what they were after.