A couple of days ago I had two emails. One from Flickr, telling me that someone new was now following me. And another from that very person. This is what he said:
Hello , How are you doing this week I guess you are having a good time with your friends and family.. A colleague who found a soulmate on this site introduced me to this site, I came with the intention of meeting someone serious and God fearing but unfortunately all I have come across are younger girls asking for naked pictures of me. Somehow I got discouraged and disappointed. Looking at your pictures and profile I feel you are different, you look nature and responsible and I will like to know you outside this social network as I'll be deleting my profile. On this note I will to contact you via email. I'll be looking forward to reading from you Meanwhile here is my email@example.com .I'll be looking forward to reading from you outside this site.. Thanks and remain positive.
Now there is a Flickr page, only just set up, for a certain Dr James Ian Oates, who says this about himself is his profile:
Am Dr. James Ian Oates. Great orthopaedic surgeon with a passion for photography. It wasn't the 'miracle of engineering' that is the human body that was filling me with a mad desire to live my days and nights in a pair of scrubs. The hard truth was I did not remotely want to be a surgeon. I actually just wanted to be on 'Grey's Anatomy.'
The profile contains the additional details that he is a doctor from Minnesota, USA, and there is a picture of a handsome, dapper man with grey hair in his fifties or early sixties, dressed very smartly in an expensive suit, set against what seems to be a city-centre background. But this photo does not match the darker-haired figure in the only photo provided, who seems to be somebody else. I also don't understand why someone with a 'passion for photography' has uploaded only one picture, and a mediocre one at that.
You can see what I'm thinking. The Flickr profile is phoney. That's not surprising in itself. Plenty of people treat Flickr as part of the social networking scene. I suppose they scour the website for pictures of people they like the look of. I think it's a misuse of a platform that should be strictly reserved for amateur photographers who want to showcase their best snaps. People like me. But I know that's a forlorn hope.
I accept as a fact that of all the 18,000+ shots I've published on Flickr since early 2009, the 1,600-odd pictures of myself are far and away the most popular. I try not to be disturbed by this. But I am damned certain that there are men out there who drool and fantasise over pictures of women, and that includes pictures of myself. For goodness sake, wanking themselves into a coma over an old age pensioner! It's sad and scarcely believable, but it must be so.
What can you do? I have several reasons for recording my appearance, and if a shot of myself in my new hat or whatever makes a pleasant photo, I want to feel free to pop it up on Flickr without inhibition. Some shots serve as proof that 'I was there'. But they are, in any event, an assertion of my individual existence as a real person. I don't want to be anonymous. I firmly believe you get far more credibility as a person if you show un-retouched shots of yourself on a public platform. It's the equivalent of revealing yourself on a blog, and not hiding behind an avatar and a completely fake name, and saying nothing at all about who you are. I like to think that I am 'knowable in depth' as a real person by any reader who delves into my blog. That should be even more true from looking at my Flickr pages.
Back to the Flickr profile of 'Dr James Ian Oates'. There are words and phrases in it that seem genuine enough, but the tone is flippant and the photos are lacking. I don't really think a surgeon of any eminence would present a profile like that. Moreover, the email address given is 'firstname.lastname@example.org', and yet I've noticed that almost without exception professional people offer only a workplace-based email address up front, and never a private one. Maybe this is one exception, but...
As for the email, it's untidy (what, an untidy surgeon?) and there are grammatical errors that an educated man wouldn't commit. The tone, content and general approach are not the kind I'd associate with a professional man of any standing, even if he were keen to declare a personal interest in me. And the email address ('email@example.com') doesn't tally with the one in the Flickr profile.
Yes, alarm bells are ringing very loudly! If you said to me, 'This is a scam: be very careful!' I'd completely agree.
I wonder why the writer thinks that mention of 'younger girls asking for naked pictures of me' is going to establish rapport - and a response. Has he been chasing young women? And telling them he's got a great body? If so, I wouldn't want to know him.
I could be doing him a grave injustice. Despite the clumsiness of the contact, and the suspicious discrepancies, it could be on the level.
But there is a clincher. A rock-solid reason why I wouldn't be interested, no matter what. He says he's looking for a 'God fearing' woman. What, me? Definitely not! I hate labels, so I won't claim to be an atheist, especially as it's becoming acceptable and fashionable to pose as one nowadays. But he's supposed to be an American, and when he says 'God fearing' I've a good idea what he means. He wants a compliant, subservient woman who knows her place in relation to the patriarchy devised by God. I'm not such a woman.
There used to be sherbet sweets called Love Hearts. These had messages embossed on them. Some did say 'I love you' or 'You're gorgeous'. Rather more were negative and curtly snapped 'Buzz off', 'Get lost', and other discouraging things of that sort. I'm afraid I'm going to hand Dr Oates one of those.
Some might say I'm an absolute bitch for discussing a private message in public. But hold on, what rules are supposed to bind me? Besides, I have grave doubts that this is a genuine attempt at wooing. And if it is a scam, then I am doing a public service in putting the whole thing out in the open. In any case, the man must realise that God knows everything.