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Non-Reader Spotlight: Bot or Not? photo

For this Non-Reader Spotlight, I did something a little different. I posted on Craigslist in the “Strictly Plantonic” section looking for people who want to be interviewed about not reading. I thought, “Surely there are lonely people out there who would like to talk to me about the books they ignore.”

I added a friendly headline, “Are you a nonreader? I'm looking for someone to e-mail interview!” I noted that I am 31 and that I am a woman looking for either a male or female (which I think is what wfmw means, but wondered if I somehow put myself in the category of woman looking for a man and woman for a threesome. More to come on precisely that non-reader interview soon).

Here is the body of the ad I put up:

“Hello there! I work for a literary website called Hobart. One of our features is interviews with non-readers. Are you a non-reader? Would you like to answer some questions about your habits and be the focus of an online feature? Get in touch!”

I then linked to examples of other interviews at the site.

Even in the “Strictly Platonic” section of the Craigslist personals, you are asked to fill in a number of personal qualifiers so people can find the type they’re looking for. Makes sense. Were I using “Strictly Platonic” for the more traditional use of looking for a friend, I don’t know that I would have friendship success with anyone bearing ≤ 3 Tasmanian Devil tattoos.

Here are the qualities I listed for the purpose of this non-reader interview:

Body art: one tattoo

Body: heavy (The options that seemed even close to my body type were “curvy,” “big,” “heavy” and “fit”)

Height: 5’8”

Religion: Agnostic

Zodiac: Gemini

Occupation: Writer (Though this isn’t how I earn my living, I thought it might help with… credibility?)

Status: Partnered

Drinks: Sometimes (The options here skipped straight from “sometimes” to “daily.” How about “often”?

I was very excited to receive my first response a few hours after I posted.

AA51 (Note the lack of name) said:

“Whatsup, Saw yer post... I am intrigued... 24-F here. Do ya have a celly so we can trade some pix.. We oughta see how things go on the ph one first... Why dont u teext me.. Nmber is 213<921<8669”

“Jackpot!” I thought. This person ignored the content of the post, and I thought that was perfect. They mention nothing about reading and still want to trade pics despite me just wanting to talk about books? This experiment was already a success.

I responded to the email: “Hi there! This whole thing can be done on email, actually. I don't see a reason to trade pics - just want to ask some questions about reading!  Let me know if you're up for it!”

I also showed the email to my partner, Jared, and he immediately said, “That’s a bot.”

I said, “You think?”

“It comes out real strong about nothing related to what you posted. They want to trade pix. There are a few typos to make it seem real. Look at this link: http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-213-921-8669.”

I definitely would have resorted to texting this bot in the interest of continuing this story and then the deluge of spam texts never would have ended had it not been for Jared’s intervention.

AA51 never responded again.

I thought of the time someone called my 86-year-old grandma pretending to be my cousin, Billy, and telling her he was stranded in the middle of nowhere and needed her to wire him money. I remember how hurt and confused she was when we explained to her that it wasn’t real. Billy was fine, working his evening shift at Taco Bell.

If I’m falling for bots at 31, I’ll be a prime target for money wiring scams long before I’m 86. Let me know if you’re ever in a bad spot and need some quick cash. And also if you want to talk to me about not reading. And if you run into AA51, tell her I hope she’s doing well. 

image: Jared Larson