No sex please, I am playing scrabble
by Michèle Nardelli
We’ve been sold a pup! The wonderful world of social media offers so many extraordinary opportunities to connect with other humans, a godsend in these times of no travel, work from home and social lockdown. But there is a dark side.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook, and I know that now marks me as part of the older generation because the kiddies have moved on to other platforms.
I thought Tik Tok was a bit of nonsense until I signed up to test it out and I now realise it is a time-sucking rabbit hole full of great dancers, adorable puppies, babies and toddlers, men giving women advice on dating men, delightful gay couples showing everyday pride, admirable renovation projects, a host of men with sexy accents, travel porn for those who still can’t travel, recipes and food trends, peekaboo parrots, crazy horoscopes, healing sounds and intonations, and oh my goodness, the most adorable cuddling donkeys that love to be sung a lullaby.
Twitter, well Twitter is Twitter, a source of news, the source of lies, the source of global vitriol – just sauce really.
And while at my age and situation, I no longer believe in the very concept of the love of my life, I realise that dating apps have become the real-life default for meeting anyone in real life, how absurd is that when you think about it?
But one would think that a thing called Words with Friends would be innocuous enough. I mean its just a game of scrabble, a good way to exercise your ageing brain while waiting for a bus or anywhere when you are otherwise disengaged…waiting at the doctors, bored in a meeting (I know, extremely impolite of me), alone in a restaurant.
But there is something sinister about WWF. Maybe sinister is too harsh a word…so, invasive, ridiculous, tawdry, pathetic…they all come to mind.
Every now and then someone will send a little message request. At first, I thought this was nice…an extension of reality, the banter that would accompany a real-life game of scrabble…comments like “is that really a word” or “great score” or “good game” would all be in the vicinity of normal, regular conversation.
I wouldn’t even mind “Hey how’s your day, where are you playing from?”
But that is how it starts.
You accept the message and get this… “Hello my dear”. You wonder at that that combination of familiarity and formality.
You reply with a simple hello. They respond with, how is your day? You respond with good thank you and yours? They respond with…where are you from, you reply with a country or origin.
Then comes the irrelevant question. ARE YOU SINGLE? I mean why…what has that got to do with the game?
Then the story unfolds…they are a single dad with two or three kids. They are either divorced or widowed. They think you are beautiful. They work in one of three fields – a mariner, on an oil rig or in the US military (I assume I am meant to be impressed – or does that just set things up for them being hard to get hold of).
They want to talk to you offline, they think you are sooooo beautiful. Are you on What’s App? They want to get to know you deeply, they want to talk dirty to you, they want to begin a romance.
The same patterns emerge on direct contact messages on Tik Tok.
And you know what, I am sick of it.
I am not naïve about online scammers; I know when to tell people to bugger off.
But I’m truly sad about this.
I am sad about how it steals from our humanity, from the possibilities of genuine connection, of international friendships, of learning about people’s lives and experiences in places other than our own back yard.
I am also sick to death of this trope that all women are waiting for some sexy talk to spice up their otherwise dull lives. I call BS on all of it.
Fake photos, fake lives, fake news, people claiming fake election victories, what is left to hold on to – only the narrow confines of your immediate circle of trusted friends?
And I emphasise narrow here, because if ever we needed to break away from a narrow view of the world it is now. Our existential crises – pandemics, climate change and all the rest – are global.
We are all in it together.
So, I suppose my message is simple, and I know I am whistling in the wind, but for all you good and real folk who play Words with Friends, how about you reach out to your opponent next game with some real talk.
Ask them what they think about, politics, being a parent, retirement, travel, art, music, books, sports. Be up front, tell them you are not a scammer, and that you are happy to chat within the game as you would if you were facing each other over the board.
Ask them what it is like to live where they live. How was their day? Use this amazing connectivity to engage genuinely over a decent game of scrabble.
It doesn’t have to be deep; it just has to be real.