Monday, October 19, 2015

Misadventures on Facebook: the "other" file




Good morning, gentle readers. Since I must constantly keep you updated and informed on the fascinating details of my dull, disappointed life, here's two cents' worth of stuff on a phenomenon you may or may not have heard of.

It's called "other".

You may have heard of catfishing (or "catphishing", a more accurate term) in which someone on social media assumes the identity of an imaginary person, hooking in somebody who is lonely, vulnerable and easily deluded. This happens for obvious sexual, emotional and/or financial purposes which are always self-serving, and sometimes sadistic. It happened to Meri Brown of Sister Wives, no less, and a watered-down version of it happened to me, sort of, but I wasn't aware of it for years.

I don't get a lot of FB messages except from one person, a close friend I keep in touch with because he has been sick lately and not given to talking about it unless I ask him. Then I read a post from another FB friend which said something like, "I don't know if you're aware of it, but your Facebook messages have a category called 'other' which functions like a junk email/spam file. It automatically files suspicious messages and isn't obvious to access. Most people don't even know about it."  I just had to find out what this was about.






There were a few dozen messages, some of them of the "unclaimed money" variety where you only have to send the person $5000.00 to get your billion-dollar "lost" inheritance.

Some were nonsensical, and a few were generic "hi, let's be friends" messages that hoped to snag me very easily, the hook being barely baited.

I've picked out a few favorites. Some of these went back several years because I simply didn't know they were there: it's not obvious at all, and as with so many Facebook features, you have to be born knowing about it, unless you're me. Then you never find out until it's too late.






2 mutual friends: Genni Gunn and Linda Clay

I do everything at I AM A GENERAL CONTRACTOR

June 29, 2012 11:27 pm



HELLO PRETTY LADT I WAS JUST PASSING WHEN I SEE YOUR WONDERFUL BEAUTIFUL FACE I WAS CATIVATED IF YOU DONT MINE CAN WE BE FRIENDS


This has got to be one of my favorite Facebook messages ever. Never before have I been called a "PRETTY LADT", and I never will be again. These things are sent out in bulk in the hopes that one in ten thousand might "bite", take the bait, be completely convinced this guy (? Could be anyone) is interested in her personally, is truly "CATIVATED" (speaking of "catfish" - maybe this was an encoded warning of sorts). And I have to admit, I "DON'T MINE", never have mined and probably never will mine because I simply don't have the equipment. 

This reminds me of something from the old TV series WKRP, in which someone filled out a dating service form with hobbies that included "logging", a much more rugged activity than low-impact running. There are usually details to pad out the profile and give an impression of prosperity, reliability, whatever. A "GENERAL CONTRACTOR" who does "everything" (including a lot of vulnerable women) must seem like a good thing: this is a self-employed, financially solvent guy who writes all in caps and can't spell.





hi,
my name is Grace, i saw your profile and i became interested to know more about you, please can you give me the chance to know more about you? i will be very happy to be your good friend . this is my private E_mail ( babegrace222 (@) yahoo.co.uk )

PLEASE DON'T REPLY ME HERE. CONTACT ME THROUGH MY PRIVATE E_MAIL, SO THAT I WILL SEND YOU MORE PRIVATE PICTURES ( babegrace222@yahoo.co.uk )



You and Justine Favour aren't connected on Facebook
Lives in Kharkov, Ukraine


Now this one is really strange.  Why would a person named Grace (not a friend, of course) take special notice of my profile, saying she "became interested to know more about you" (then repeating the phrase)? The "babegrace222" alone is very strange and emanates the possibility of porn-y pictures. But then there is that "PLEASE DON'T REPLY ME HERE" which is in urgent caps, and the reference to "MORE PRIVATE PICTURES" - ay ay ay! What sort of private pictures, and how much do they cost? (But remember she wants to be my "good" friend, so it must be OK). But the strangest thing of all is that this message isn't from "babegrace222" at all, but someone named Justine Favour who is NOT on my Facebook page and lives in Kharkov, Ukraine. If she exists at all, I very much doubt her name is Justine Favour.

Chat Conversation Start



April 16, 2013 9:30 am

Hi, How are you doing? hope you are doing great..Iam John, from Austin,Texas.Am 9year widower,i live with my pet dogs wamma and sandy. I need a long term relationship a woman who will love me for whom Iam..caring,loving,nice.passionate,romantic honesty,with a great sense of humor.sure,Am a gentle man,caring,lovely,respectful,passionate,romantic,good manners with a great sense of humor.distance doesn't matters in any relationship,what matters is the heart and love shared.i love traveling,going to the beach,playing pool games,camping,fishing,drawings,watching movies and sunset. you caught my attention.i will love to know more about you..keep safe and God bless. John,

This is the closest thing to classic catfishing I've ever received. Probably sent by some cash-strapped middle-aged woman desperate to squeeze someone (anyone!)so she can pay her overdue bills and her drug dealer. Every detail in this thing has been stage-managed: the up-front phony well-wishes, the mention of living in Austin, Texas (somehow a solid, wholesome-sounding place),and the nine years being a widower - such a long, long time to be lonely and bereaved (though he has two dogs, golden retrievers who bound around their master, eager for a walk to go score some wallets in the park).






He immediately states what he "needs", "a woman who will love me for whom Iam"(sic). He then goes on to list his reams of good qualities, many of them repetitive. "Loving" and "lovely" may have been conflated, unless he truly is lovely (a slip?). The really revealing statement is "distance doesn't matters in any relationship". This is always a red flag in social media, because it places the other person at a safe (unsafe) remove. If you never look into the other person's eyes (and the photos they send might be of George Clooney's better-looking brother), you never catch their vibes, see into them and figure out if they are sincere.

It goes on and on. "You caught my attention" has a generic feel, and notice he never uses my name. "Caught" has squirmy connotations when applied to catfishing. And it's doubtful he even looked at my profile picture because they're often abstracts, landscapes and pictures of Harold Lloyd. The activities he enjoys, take note, mostly don't cost much, so he's cheap. "Sunset", the last activity mentioned, doesn't cost anything at all. "Keep safe and God bless" is the ultimate irony, because if you in fact answered this thing, I doubt very much that you would be on safe ground. 

A couple of these things had apparently disappeared on me, leaving me wondering just how bad they might be, or who was policing it in the first place:

This message has been temporarily removed because the sender's account requires 

verification.


  You and Loquilla Loca aren't connected on Facebook




Loquilla Loca. Hmmmmm.





Dear Facebook friends, I hope everyone had a nice weekend! This is just a friendly reminder that tomorrow night -- April 24 --  Honoria Birdsong will launch her second collection of short stories, Bad Dope, at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue), and we want you to celebrate with us! Author Kathryn Krackenburger will interview Birdsong live on stage, and copies of Bad Dope will be available for purchase (and autographing!). Plus, it's just nice to have any excuse to go to the Dakota, isn't it? Be there any time after 7 p.m. It's totally free, too! This book launch just gets better and better! --  Neville Tuesday, Publicist, Handcrank Books


Sorry, folks, I had to include this one (with certain details changed to protect ME) which came in and was promptly filed under "other", even if it isn't strictly catfishing.

But it is, most definitely, junk mail. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.

Let me tell you just why this offends me so much. I was briefly in an online a "writer's group" (a contradiction in terms, I've always felt) that was based exclusively in Toronto, with the writers doing more nasty, whispering playground-talk and backstabbing than anyone ever did on FB. Most of it involved slagging writers from anywhere but Toronto, a kind of blood sport. I mentioned doing some contract work for a textbook press and was sniggered and sneered into the ground: "oh well, I guess if you want a paycheck that badly", "cheap outfit, shitty pay", and worse. 





This gooey invitation-thing reeks of exclusivity and pathetic CanLit insularity: we seem to think we're big shit, and sadly, we are not.("Plus, it's just nice to have any excuse to go to the Dakota, isn't it?" Oh, my goodness, he's from Toronto so he must be right!) Myself, I thought the Dakota was where John Lennon got shot, but no, it's in that only-place-in-Canada-to-be-a-writer-of-any-importance, Toronto. I was grateful to see the event was "totally free" - I've never heard of anyone with the audacity to charge people for a book signing, but in Toronto, one never knows. (And I never knew there were degrees of "free": partially free, 75% free, totally free?). While I am the first to admit that "this book launch just gets better and better" (didn't anyone tell this guy he's trying too hard? But this is what Toronto authors sound like now), I am also quite eager to pass, since they probably do a retinal scan at the door to make sure you're not from Vancouver.

It ended up in "other", folks. It's a piece of junk, a mass mailing that never should have come to me at all. I'm not about to hop a plane and spend a couple thousand dollars to go see Honoria Birdsong push her dope book. Sorry. Please go fishing for someone else.





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