Games People Play

Apparently nothing is safe from the trawling creepers.

My oldest daughter got me into playing Words with Friends. Since i am a tireless Scrabble player from way back, it made sense to add this app to my repertoire. It took me a while to get used to the changes in rules and features in the web-based versus board-based, so in the beginning, i only played my daughter and a couple of close friends. Once i started getting the hang of it, i added in suggested players. It got to be great fun, if still a bit of a time-waster.

Then WWF added in a new feature: Messaging. Seems like a cool thing. You can give your competitor kudos for an exceptional play. Complain about having nothing but vowels for 3 turns in a row. Maybe even get to make a friend. I enjoyed the additional perk until recently.

A few days ago, i received some new game requests. The first came with an immediate message. It was an introduction, which seemed innocent enough. The man appeared to be about my age and said he was in Idaho. I responded with a polite introduction. As he continued on, i noticed a few things:

  1. Judging by his vocabulary and syntax, he was not likely to be a native English speaker – Rather odd since his name and picture screamed “middle America”
  2. His hours of play made more sense for someone in a time zone 5 or 6 hours ahead of me, not 2 behind me.
  3. He became overly familiar very quickly. Questions about occupation, etc, rapidly gave way to questions about location and other specifics (That i would never hand out to a stranger)

I decided to have a little fun with him. I made up some fairly ridiculous answers to his questions. He didn’t catch on to the unlikelihood of the responses and kept asking away about the personal details of my life.

In less than 6 messages, he was asking for my email address. Uuuuuhhhhhh… Nope. But i kept on replying with complete and utter ridiculous fabrication, just for my own amusement. And when he finally got around to asking if i was married, i replied, “I married Jesus when i took my vows.”

I haven’t heard back from him since.

Mind you, i am not in any way knocking or mocking nuns. I think their commitment is a wonderful thing. But i guarantee it wasn’t what the trawler wanted to hear. And i do hope the sisters would enjoy the humor in using that line to put him in his place.

The second gentleman was a bit more relaxed, admitted to me he was from one of the more cosmopolitan areas of Africa, and has not asked nearly as many invasive questions as the first man. In fact, his first handful of contacts were about the game itself. Then came the inevitable “You are so beautiful!” bit. He went on and on about my insanely good looks (To note, while i am certainly not the bad side of a tram smash, i am in no danger of being mistaken for a fashion model. My profile pic on the app isn’t even a particularly good one. So excessive use of phrases like, “You look like a movie star!” reek of fresh horse shit.) I think he sent half a dozen messages about my sparkling appearance and the probability that i had a great figure before the eventual “Are you married?”

This time i replied, “I was before my transition.”

To his credit, he replied “Ok,” and has continued playing the game – Albeit with no more small talk.

(Again, this was not to place any harm on the transgendered. My response was solely crafted to be something he would not expect, especially if he was only trawling.)

The third player got to the “Are you married?” on message 2. Not even a formal introduction first. (Apparently he didn’t read the national bestseller, Miss Manners’ Guide to Social Media Trawling.) I went left field on this one and sent a rambling rant on how marriage is the creation of the patriarchy, meant to keep women down, “Screw the establishment!”, reasons why men should be cut up and used as shark bait, and, hey, my coven throws a big shin dig for Ostara – It would be great if you could come!

No response yet, but the night is early.

True, i could just not respond – But where’s the fun in that?  Besides, i’m kind of angry, and my passive-aggressive solution helps me to feel better.

Yes, i realize that social media is full of trawlers, and by joining anything that has messaging capability, i effectively take the blame for it. A handful of times a few years ago on Facebook i would get similar messages… And back then i made a game of seeing how long it would take them to ask me for money. I’ve had similar things on other sites as well. But good grief – This is Scrabble! It’s a game, not true social media. It’s supposed to help my brain stay agile as i slide down the splintered pole of middle age, not inundate me with fake men fishing for money. But then again, i suppose creating all these stories to thwart them probably does at least as much for my brain as the game does.

Yes, i will feel badly if it turns out that any of these people is for real and just looking for a friend. Just as i feel badly for the people who take the charlatans seriously and fall prey to money scams. But more than either of those, i’m disappointed that it took such a short time for such a relatively innocent pastime to become just another way for lowlifes to fleece people by preying on their insecurities and sympathies. If they spent half as much effort trying to do good for people, i can’t imagine all the wonders they could accomplish.

But we all know that isn’t going to happen. There have been cheats for as long as there have been humans on this Earth. And there is little i can do to stop it. What i can do is stop allowing the fact that i am a common target of trawlers make me feel bad about myself. I am not pitiful, insanely lonely, or stupid; and i am most definitely not going to follow someone into a metaphorical unmarked van for flattery and a piece of figurative candy. Instead, i will entertain myself by having them fish for the figments of my active imagination. For my stories. I will waste their time as much as they do mine.  In fact, i already have a plan for the next one… I’m going to (Appear to) fall for it, hook, line, and sinker, and ask so many specific and personal questions in return that i creep them out as much as they do me!

C-o-u-n-t-e-r-i-n-s-u-r-g-e-n-c-y. With the triple word scores and the double letter scores…. I’d say i win the game.

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