We’ve all heard the scary stories of online predators. First it was in chat rooms (when we were learning about the Internets and didn’t know any better). Then came the Craigslist Killer (so, don’t respond to shady ads on a free classifieds site?). The trend caught on early on Facebook (Take down your cartoon profile picture!!!). And even Match.com recently banned sex offenders. So naturally Twitter would be a target as well. But there’s a problem.
On Twitter if some random creep @replies a normal, functioning, adult woman, like myself (yes, I am a woman, fully growed), she does not bother replying back but rather ignores the creep or, if necessary, blocks him. After all, we’ve dated enough to know that the best way to deal with creepy guys is to ignore them. Sure, you have your occasional crazy, but I’ve never had to put a restraining order on anyone. Not texting/emailing/accepting Facebook friend request has been sufficient to stave off the creepers.
The problem lies in the relationships we form with guys who we’ve never met who follow our tweets, reply to them with witty or flattering commentary, ask us if we’re going to such-and-such happy hour/tweet-up/event because they’d love to meet us in person, and eventually ask us if they can take us out to dinner to have a proper date, because we’re soooo charming and funny and they’d love to get to know us better.
It sounds harmless enough, right? One date? We go on one date with guys we don’t really know all the time. At least these guys sort of know us, right?
Well ladies, all I can say is beware. After a recent dinner with some fellow bloggers revealed that we‘ve been approached by the same guys, it seems there is a pattern with Twitter Predators, or Twittators.
A) He flatters you. He tells you how funny, witty, interesting, etc., you are, all based on your tweets and/or blog posts, which makes you feel like he is a man of substance, more mature than the guys who ask you out (or don’t) based on your looks.
B) He stalks you. He wants to follow you on Foursquare. He Facebook friend requests you. He reads your blog and comments on it. But it’s okay because you are putting yourself out there, so it’s not really stalking. Plus it’s flattering to get so much social media attention. And he’s “friends” with other “friends” of yours, so you’re already kind of connected.
C) He asks you out. You turn him down, of course, because you’re not *quite* sure about him, but you tell him thank you and you’re flattered, and you tell yourself if he asks you out again you’ll say yes. A girl likes to be pursued, after all. Or, you do go out with him because he seems harmless, and he is a perfect gentleman all night – takes you to a nice place, orders a bottle of wine, lets you talk about yourself, compliments you on how pretty your hair is. You go home feeling like you’ve conquered the dating world, found the best new way to meet guys.
D) He invites you to a happy hour or other event at the last minute. You already have dinner plans with friends, but you thank him for the invite. He asks where you are – maybe he’s close and could stop by for a drink? You show your friends his tweet – because you haven’t given him your phone number just yet – and giggle with them over how much he likes you. So you tell him where you are, wondering if he’ll actually follow through and hoping he will because you‘re really digging the attention.
E) He follows through. And he makes sure you have a drink in your hand at all times. You’re in disbelief that a guy is giving you this much attention when you’ve spent so much energy trying to get attention from other guys, but your friends misinterpret the situation and think you’re really into him. You’re not really into him, you’re just overcome with Inflated Ego Syndrome. Eventually they leave, and you are alone with The Twittator.
Now here’s where it could get bad. He may offer you a ride home because you drank too much. If you accept, he will probably ask to use your bathroom once you arrive. And then…well, you can figure out the rest. The next day you’re embarrassed and disgusted with yourself.
Do not be fooled, ladies. This was not your fault. You have been duped, and The Twittator knew exactly what he was doing. What’s worse? He’s doing it to your other Twitter friends.
But female bloggers talk to each other. We connect and share stories candidly, especially ones we don’t feel comfortable blogging about, and sometimes we find out our suspicions of certain male tweeters are true, because other bloggers have had similar experiences with them. The Twitter pool is a lot smaller than we realize.
I’m happy to say – in case you were wondering – that no terrible fate has come from me going out with two guys I met on Twitter, who I now consider to be Twittators. But the pattern was there with both of them, and if circumstances had been a little more in their favor, I may have been in big trouble. The worst that came out of my experiences was one guy bugged me for a long time because I *stupidly* gave him my phone number, and the other guy’s girlfriend (yes, girlfriend) found out we went on a date because we were both tweeting about it. That caused a whole lotta drama in my inbox.
I’m not one to call out people publicly, so I won’t name names here. But I urge you to be careful out there. Because we’re adults we may feel like we’re not vulnerable to this sort of thing, but every predator knows how to hunt his prey, and Twittators have us figured out well.