Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Craiglist Experiment Part 1: Long Term Romance

One of the intriguing aspects of craigslist is the “Personals” section. While it does not offer the thirty-nine levels of compatibility touted by E-Harmony or the six month guarantee of Match.com, there is a certain rudimentary charm in submitting a concise paragraph (and for the adventurous, a photo) to be poured over and reacted to by the local populace. For the inexperienced, there are several unique categories in the craigslist personals section:

Strictly Platonic – this section can be utilized to proliferate lasting friendships or even to find accomplices for an upcoming bank job. Carpe diem!

Misc Romance – generally reserved for couples wishing to “add an extra player to their nocturnal roster”

Casual Encounters- you may or may not become the victim of a grisly homicide (also a good place to find the high school volleyball coach who licks his lips excessively).

Missed Connections – when you lack the motivation for actual stalking….

Rants and Raves – upset about a purchase at Wal-Mart? Tired of white people? Ready to announce your sexual preferences to the world? Look no further.

Category 1 – Woman Seeking a Man

I placed the following ad in several large metropolitan areas serviced by craigslist:

In the interest of brevity, I am 30 years old with blonde hair and green eyes. I am 5’ 10” tall and have an athletic build. I currently work as a fitness instructor but have a degree in Leisure Studies (lame I know...) and am still not sure what I want to do when I grow up.
My hobbies Include:
·         Amateur Falconry
·         19th Century Existentialism
·         Swedish Love Poetry
·         Concerts
·         Artwork Originating with Zoo Animals
·         Geriatric Boggle Tournaments
 I am looking for a man who is sensitive enough to have a well-nurtured feminine side but masculine enough never to admit to its existence. He must be unfettered by self-consciousness, yet acutely aware of his own emotional and physical limitations. Someone for whom copulation transcends primal urges yet is willing to embrace those same urges when the situation calls for it. A man who is an unflinching advocate for justice, but whose life experiences have taught him that justice can be painfully subjective.  In short, I am looking for Batman (but I doubt he uses craigslist so I am willing to settle for a nice guy with common interests).
My fictional bachelorette (henceforth referred to as “Sandy”) generated quite a stir in several areas. While I generally would only leave the post active for twenty-four hours in one location, she generated an average of two responses per hour. Taken in aggregate, the responses produced some interesting data:

1. Men will feign interest in anything if they believe the woman is hot. I was flabbergasted at the number of suitors who claimed to have “always had an interest in falconry” or who liked noting more than spending a Saturday evening discussing the merits of existentialism. Only one person called me on the absurd nature of my “interests.”

2. Men are terrible at selecting flattering photos of themselves. One guy sent me a picture of himself surrounded by garbage and holding a small dog in what looked to be a condemned warehouse. Another gentleman sent me a picture of what I assume was supposed to be a seductive wink but was more akin to the stink eye. I am pretty sure that three respondents used the photos from their real estate ads and one scanned his passport photo.

3. Privacy is apparently overrated. A considerable number of interested parties volunteered their cell phone numbers, employers, and primary e-mail accounts without any assurances of my identity or intentions.  

4. A startling number of gentlemen attempted to distance themselves from their competition by referencing the dismal caliber of the men who frequent craigslist (yes, I recognize the irony). The most memorable quote was from a respondent who referred to men who frequent craigslist personal ads as “philistines” who would be unable to comprehend the “abstruse” nature of my ad. He predicted that a large majority of these philistines would respond with photos of their genitals (thankfully none did).

That being said, Sandy did receive a few quality candidates who appeared to have both steady sources of income and a comparable sense of humor. Admirably, not one of the almost forty responses was perverted in tone or content. 

During the same timeframe I penned an ad as a man seeking a woman.

Category 2 – Man Seeking a Woman

The ad I placed in several large metropolitan areas was as follows:

I am looking for a woman whose self-reliance is only eclipsed by her willingness to embrace the unexpected; someone whose gentle spirit is equally yoked with her unquenchable passion. She is a whirlwind of strength and femininity tempered by years of regrettable, yet vital, adversity which has only served to embolden her fearless outlook on life. I want a lady whose radiance is resistant, nay impervious, to the very passage of time itself.
If you are such a creature, and wish to drink deeply of the sweet nectar of our fleeting existence, please reply. I find the following qualities to be infinitely fascinating in the fairer sex:
• Misdemeanors (felonies are acceptable in some cases)
• Shellfish allergies
• A reluctance to parallel park
• Sneezing exclusively in sets of three
• Misspelled tattoos
• Ownership of any single complete season of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on DVD
• Skin that naturally emits the scent of vanilla
• A debilitating fear of nouns
• Current inoculation records for hepatitis B
• Violent mood swings

Please, serious inquiries only.
Ambiguously Yours
Note – In order to fool craigslist I also published a slightly different version that detailed my aversion to female mustaches or “fustaches.”

While my posts did elicit several responses, a significant number of those responses were from a dreaded “craigslist bot.” A craigslist bot is an automated computer program that scours the personal ads for specific criteria (in this case it was ads classified as M4W) and generates a canned response. The purpose of the program is to entice the post’s originator to respond (thereby revealing their true e-mail address and often identity) to a company who likely spam their inbox into oblivion with ads for discounted Cialis.

Bot Girl A - "Andrea Skinner"
Bot Girl B -"Stephanie Genevagibbs"

Bot Girl C - "Eliabeth Rosellade"

These bots ensure a high percentage of responses by pairing a few lines of salacious text with a decidedly amateur photo of an attractive woman. Since the bots cannot comprehend and interpret the text of the posts, it often results in humorously incongruous responses. My absolute favorite is this single line response from a bot operating as “Lauree Depasquale”

 “As we kiss, my hands massage your firm ass in your swim trunks”

While the implication that my buttocks are “firm” is quite flattering, I am not sure Lauree is ready for the serious long-term relationship that the category implies. It should also be noted that I did mention swimming as an interest. Although my ad seeking female companionship generated fewer human responses, there was some information to be gained.
  • In sharp contrast to the male respondents, the women rarely responded with photos of themselves and none volunteered their cell phone numbers. 
  • One claimed that she did sneeze exclusively in triplicate, but no one admitted to a misdemeanor.
  • None of the responses accused me of being disingenuous.

After this brief foray into the world of craigslist personals, I have come to the following conclusions:
·          
  •  If you wish to expand your dating prospects and are looking for a serious emotional and physical connection, downgrade your three-out-at-a-time Netflix plan and spend the extra cash on E-Harmony. If you interests include kidnapping or awkward carnal moments in a public restroom, craigslist is still the best bet.

  • Maintain and utilize a separate e-mail account registered under a pseudonym to reply to any “personals” posts, otherwise you can easily be tracked via Facebook and Twitter and your new “friend” can become a bigger part of your life than you intended.

  •  If you are a man responding to the ad of an attractive thirty year-old personal trainer, never include the line “as soon as I can move back out of my parent’s house…” in a reply.

1 comment:

  1. Also, in the spotlight of public safety, those of you who use foursquare, etc: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2010-08-26-location-services_N.htm

    ReplyDelete