Ever get the feeling that you are being watched?
Thanks to Facebook, I didn’t need Edward Snowden to tell me my personal information was being mined. From friend suggestions to targeted ads, even a casual glance at my Facebook page betrays the bothersome fact that the all-seeing eyes of Zuckerberg are minding my business. And by business I mean my inveterate bachelorhood.
What tipped me off was the steady stream of dating site ads which appeared every time I logged on. I’m not sure why anyone in social media thinks I need help in this department. I lead a pretty adventuresome life. Besides, I grew up with Herb Alpert’s music, The Dating Game and Love, American Style, so trust me – I’m fine.
My editor guessed such an onslaught of ads would occur if I’d been frequenting dating sites. Sounds plausible, given that occasionally I will peruse the personals to see what my friends allege about themselves. What can I say – I enjoy reading creative fiction. But otherwise, I don’t have time to bother with personal ads. As anyone who has stalked me on Facebook will tell you, I’m far too busy taking long, quiet walks on the beach.
Another friend, fellow poet A.J. Hayes (my brother from a different mother) thinks the ads are tied to our “likes” or to key words in our status updates. I post a wide array of musings, though more often than not said posts are simply odd news items, links to my stories, or wry remarks for my writer friends; nothing which would warrant an avalanche of dating ads. Then too, I am friends with a number of burlesque stars. “Smoking hot women” would be the key words there.
Aside from the burlesque stars, I suppose the trigger for these ads could be that I am dating myself every time I reference Donna Reed or Dobie Gillis. Or maybe it was that online argument I had concerning the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Regardless, I’ve been inundated (oops, I just inadvertently typed the key word “date”) with personal ads, and it seems they are going from the ridiculous to the indecorous. More on the worst of these later.
According to one ubiquitous ad for Match.com, 1 in 5 relationships start online. Match doesn’t say how many of those relationships end with either a restraining order or a bunny being boiled.
At first I tried using the drop-down menu to block these inexorable ads. The options for blocking Facebook ads are as follows:
[ ] Uninteresting
[ ] Misleading
[ ] Sexually explicit
[ ] Against my views
[ ] Offensive
[ ] Repetitive
[ ] Other
I can’t say the ads are uninteresting. There really is something for everyone. I mean, who wouldn’t want to meet a Mennonite girl for some rhubarb pie and hand-pressed cider? Likewise, the ads are only misleading to the point where you believe that Maxim model’s thumbnail picture in any way resembles anyone you’ll ever meet online. Sexually explicit? I only check that box when I see a political ad. Dating is definitely not against my views, though some dates are offensive or (worse) repetitive. That leaves the “other” box which requires one type the reason for blocking an ad. And even with that, Facebook only promises to “try” not to send the same ad.
Shortly after I began to block the ads, Facebook demanded to know (in bold letters, no less):
“What is your relationship status?”
As if that’s anybody’s business.
I ignored that demand; still, the corporate gods were undeterred by my efforts to excise their moneymakers. As if to gently woo me back, Facebook cheerfully implored:
“Give Online Dating a Try ~ Even in the gardens of Eden man couldn’t live alone! Start meeting women tonight!”
(OK, I’ll admit I found this one rib-tickling. And like the serpent in the gardens of Eden, the English usage be damned.)
Sensing they had me with the shepherd’s crook, I was immersed in ads for Christian Mingle:
“Want a faithful woman? ~ Christian Girls are online and waiting to meet with like-minded guys on Christian Mingle.”
I’ll note that the thumbnail which went along with this ad was of a bountiful young blond in a blue thong bikini. I guess a lot has changed since I attended that Baptist Bible college.
The Christ-centered solicitations notwithstanding, the personal ads got progressively bolder:
“Sugar Daddy Wanted! ~ Hello, I’m a Russian girls who want a sugar daddy. Will you be mine? I will be your lamb.”
(I don’t mean to split hairs here, but the Greeks do lamb way better than the Russians.)
“Give Rich Women A Chance ~ Lonely Rich Women are seeking 40+ men for a chance to love, Could you give them a chance?”
(That depends. Will they help finance my next Broadway production?)
“New Dating MSG! ~ A woman nearby secretly followed you and sent you a dating request! See who she is now!”
(I could click on the ad to see who she is, or perhaps I should just ask Facebook.)
Not to be outdone by Match or Christian Mingle, Zoosk teased me with:
“Are You Looking For Single Women? Join Zoosk Today. Your Next Hot Date is One Click away.”
A hot date? No thanks. I see that phrase and all I can think is the girl is probably one hot mess.
This is especially true of some of the Millennials I’ve befriended over the last few years. And some Generation X-ers. And aging Baby Boomers. But knowing my polyester past, Facebook seems more than happy to hype hot flashes with a torrent of age specific ads. Ads like:
“Are you still single and looking for love? Sign up now for free at Senior People Meet!”
I’m trying to do the math here. Just how old would Mrs. Robinson be today?
“Mature Women Beg For Date”
(Need I say this?? Ladies… Please don’t beg….)
“100′s of single women in your area are desperate to date and chat to 40+ men.”
Again, it seems the interwebs are awash with desperate older women. Perfect, I suppose, if you’re in a hurry to move to Florida. At least one site puts all of its cards on the table:
“Ugly Females Inside? ~ We have female members DESPERATE for fun dates. BUT, they are not pretty. Join & Chat now!”
By the way, the Katy Perry look-alike in the accompanying picture was anything but ugly.
I have no idea how Katy Perry’s evil twin ended up on her back in the mature meet-market. But there is a madness to Facebook’s thumbnail method, which brings me to perhaps my favorite in this category – another ad for Senior People Meet.
“Browse Faithful Singles in Your Area with Senior People Meet.”
Pretty straightforward, but what struck me about this particular ad was that the model in the accompanying picture was a fairly recognizable porn star. Or so I was told.
Purloined pictures of famous porn stars are just one more reason I remain dubious about these sidebar ads; so much so that I read the headline, “Oodles of Dating Replies” as, “Oodles of Dating Reptiles”.
Occasionally, Facebook will throw something completely different into the mix, like ads for dental insurance (important if you’re dating a woman who remembers voting for Truman) or the one for Synthetic Western Saddles. I know a number of women who are spellbound whenever I talk about riding horses. Just not sure most of them have a positive association with stirrups.
Riding horses (and chewing food for that matter) does require stamina. Not-to-worry. Facebook assures me that:
“Older men are increasing their testosterone”
I haven’t clicked on the ad, but I’m guessing that younger women are somehow involved. Speaking of which:
“Younger Women Seeking Older Men ~ Would you date a younger woman? Sign-up Free & start browsing pics instantly.”
(Again, at first this sounds amusing: right up to the point where you realize that 25 is the new 14, and that watching an artless hipster down six straight Stella’s really isn’t all that much fun.)
Admittedly, some women come with baggage, so Facebook plays the sympathy angle with:
“Give Single Moms a Chance ~ Browse faithful sexy single moms in your area seeking a second chance at love.”
(I already know of a place in this area where I can browse Scores of sexy single moms.)
In a way, ridiculous personal ads on social media have almost supplanted spam email offers. Even so, some of these beauties have bypassed the spam filter in my Yahoo account:
“Sleep with a married woman that wants you now”
“If sex is just a memory for you, life has stopped long ago!”
“You’re probably the happiest man in the world because girls write to you themselves”
(Yes, they do. And boy, what some of those “girls” write!)
From “Connie” ~ “I just explored that I always wanted to have an online love affair. Could you become a part of it?”
(And just what in the gardens of Eden is an online love affair?)
From “Naomi” ~ “Help me cheat on my husband”
(I’m guessing Naomi doesn’t really need any help with that.)
“Andrea” ~ “I wait for you!”
(I don’t mean to keep Andrea waiting, but I digress.)
I would be remiss if I didn’t note some of the Facebook ads I get for foreign brides. Ads like:
“Latina and Latin Girls. Browse, meet, chat. Everything you can imagine.”
(Umm, everything????) Or:
“Ukrainian Women Online ~ Nice slavic women are searching their men!”
(They won’t be so nice if they find Ludmilla’s lipstick on your rubakha.)
East of Sevastopol, there’s: “Experience Love You’ll Never Forget on AnastasiaDate. 20000+ Beauties. Stacks of Replies”
And even farther east:
“Meet Asian Women ~ Live chat with over 1 million ladies at AsianDating.com.”
It’s true, I could teach myself Mandarin. But doesn’t meeting that one-in-a-million Asian girl mean there are one thousand million over there exactly like her?
If there is any question about the end game in these ads, one site laid it all on the line:
“Flirt little Send a Wink ~ I would like to be out and meet a complete stranger and be used by him. Leave Me a MSG!”
In theory, I guess I understand the appeal of dating and marriage sites. In today’s busy world it can be exhausting looking for that ephemeral “one.” But I have never felt the compunction to cast my lot with the online Dating Game. I still prefer meeting girls the old fashioned way: at ice cream socials, sorority mixers, sock hops and Italian weddings.
Which brings me back to the worst aspect of these unrelenting ads. For me, they come with the not-so-subtle message that being single is somehow a character flaw. That I can only be happy if I allow advertisers to orchestrate my social life.
Thanks, but no thanks, Facebook. I don’t need your help when it comes to romance. As someone once said, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
My aforementioned friend A.J. could also do without Facebook’s feckless help. A.J. was sent several scurrilous ads — ads for skin-whitening cream.
It’s bad enough I have to wade through a never-ending cycle of questionable come-ons just to see what my friends ate for dinner or to search for the time of a poetry reading. That an African-American is broadsided with ads for bleaching products is beyond the pale.
So I hope Facebook understands why I will keep on blocking its pernicious personal ads. Like the one I got a few seconds ago which reads:
“I’m great in the Saddle! ~ Find women with a horse and country lifestyle at Find Horse Lovers. Com”
Hey. Wait a minute. That one DOES sound intriguing. I love horseback riding. How did Facebook know??? And the girl in the picture next to the ad looks just like Debra Winger. Hmmm.
Now what did I do with that link for those Synthetic Western Saddles?