Welcome to the 21st century where hand-held devices rule every aspect of our lives, including romance! Over the past few years dating apps and online dating services have started becoming the accepted norm in adult dating. Popular apps like Tinder and OkCupid no longer face the social stigma they would have met six years ago. Now everyone is swiping left and right trying to find a connection. So how does one find success using one of these apps if they have a few……drawbacks? Well, I went ahead and pretended to be famed serial killer Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, on Tinder for a hand full of weeks. The entire experience was weird, creepy, and at times overwhelming. So what have I learned from pretending to be a famed fictional serial killer with a need to skin “big girls?” We are all looking for a connection.
How It All Started
It all started back in October one sleepless night. I was up rewatching some show on Netflix when I had an idea that I thought was funny: What if Buffalo Bill had a Tinder profile? The idea was simple. Create a fake Tinder profile for the fictional serial killer, post it on iHorror’s Facebook page and hope that others will find it funny. Because it was 2:30 in the morning I also decided to swipe right on every profile until I ran out of likes, thinking no one would ever match with this creeper. Low and behold, not two minutes later, I get a match and message. I briefly talked with this young woman before creeping myself out, unceremoniously unmatched her, and went back to my sleepless binge watching. It was too much. The quick escalation of exchanges and the match’s willingness to match my creep message freaked me out a bit. I closed the app, sent the picture off, and carried on with life.
A few weeks later I saw how many likes, comments, and shares the photo received. This gave me the idea to revisit Bill and see how he was doing in the dating app world. What a surprise it was to see that there were dozens of matches and messaging waiting for him! I immediately contacted my editors and pitched the idea to them. Who wouldn’t want to have the freedom to say really fucked up shit to other with little to no repercussions? Hesitant at the thought that one of their writers might be arrested or put on some profiling list, we came up with some boundaries. Rules for how Buffalo Bill must act and respond to his matches.
The rules we came up with were more common sense than rules. Simply put: No threats of personal harm. I could allude to things Bill did in the movie, but not direct them at the matches. No swearing unless provoked. This was mostly to help keep it fun and to stay in character. Buffalo Bill rarely swore in the film, hence I kept my use of potty language to only when Bill’s dog Precious was threatened.
Do not force someone into a conversation. Pretty easy as they have to agree to match in order for me to contact them. If they didn’t message first then I would send them a simple ice breaker from Bill in the form of “I like your skin, do you moisturize?” If they don’t respond then I wouldn’t continue trying to contact them. This often lead to this scenario:
After awhile I started running into conversations that would suddenly die off. How was I suppose to get enough material for this piece without a bunch of ongoing responses? I started sending lyrics to The Greenskeeper’s ode to Buffalo Bill, Lotion, to the ones who let our conversation die. Some times it worked, most of the time it didn’t. Again, if they didn’t respond after this I stopped contacting them. No need to add a harassment charge to what would be my long list of charges.
Within the small boundaries of the rules, I was free to say what ever I wanted Bill to say. I upped the creepy factor and made the account more of a caricature of the fictional serial killer. The rules were simple, easy to follow, and helped keep me out of trouble. But really, trouble never really came because of one thing.
Everyone Was In On The Joke
This really shouldn’t have been a surprise. Buffalo Bill is almost as iconic as Hannibal himself and his quotes/imagery are deeply imbedded into our culture. But still, it was a bit surprising that so many people were willing to talk to a serial killer. Even if they knew he wasn’t real and that there was probably some sad bastard on the other side trying to kill time on his lunch breaks. Most of the conversations started with them quoting Bill, sending links to related YouTube videos, or praising their favorite character. This made the conversations more fun as they kept feeding the joke along the way:
This went on for a few weeks until the amount of free time I had available became non-existent. Many of the conversations I had going burnt out from either party. I decided to end the experiment before I lost myself in character and started quoting Bill at social gatherings. Asking stranger what lotion do they use or if they were “big girls” ran its course for me. After one month it was script, sending out the same opening liner, making the same request, waiting for them to react in a funny manner in order to fill a screenshot. Match, hit the script, screenshot, repeat. This went on for another month. I spent sixty days talking to strangers manipulating them into giving what I wanted. It became chore. At this point I decided to break character and ask the women I spoke to about their experiences with the app. They opened up to me telling stories about how other men acted on the apps and how talking with Bill was a fun distraction from the usual. Some even sent me dozens of screenshots where men asked them, within moments of matching, to have sex with them. This isn’t surprising as men can be pretty up front in person, but add a wall of anonymity to the mixture and we become more bold in our requests. The more I thought about these women’s experience on the apps, the more I realized that I wasn’t much better than these men asking for “foot jibbers.” So I am taking these women’s example and opening up about how my experience as Bill felt.
When talking to someone through any form of technology, there is cover. Because we are not face to face, we can say just about anything. We can choose our words before sending them, we can instantly drop contact and block someone, and we can create different personalities. We can use this as a means to achieve our goals with other people. Whether those goals are for good, bad, or a laugh is up to us. So what was I doing pretending to be a fictional serial killer on a dating app? Was it so I could say disgusting things to people without repercussions? Even if this started out of boredom, I still made the conscious decision to be Buffalo Bill. Sure, both myself and the women I talked to were in on the joke, but the reasons behind me doing this were selfish. The goal was to get reactions, record them, then write it all up to get more hits on this site. Using technology to use other people for single goal. Isn’t that what people who use the apps to make lewd requests do?
When I spoke to my fellow iHorror writer Timothy Rawles about the piece he said “Using a dating app is creepy anyways.” He is right. This cyber wall that is inherently in place when using apps to meet people is impersonal. When things are impersonal, there is little to no consequence to our actions. Someone doesn’t like what we said? We get unmatched and try it on the next. When I broke character and spoke with the fans of Bill I got to know them a bit. These were intelligent and very funny women. They all have careers, goals, and hopes. Had I not broken character, I would not have gotten to know them. They would have been another piece to me getting to a goal instead of a person. I don’t view myself as a creepy guy and I could use up more of this post trying to defend it. But what I did is inherently creepy. So what did I learn from pretending to Buffalo Bill on Tinder?
Simply put, I learned that I don’t want to be pretending to be Buffalo Bill on Tinder or anywhere else really. At least for the purpose of writing an article. The experience was fun while it lasted, but ultimately wasn’t me. I didn’t like the feeling of using other people to get to this point. I connected with these people over a love of a horror movie, one that has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. But that is what this site for, to connect with fellow horror hounds. I don’t need to use people in order to connect or to achieve my goals of entertaining others. So, the account will not be deleted, but I will not continue maintaining it. It will stay up for people to see. They can have a chuckle and swipe either way, but it won’t give replies. It can continue to be a joke and nothing more. As for me pretending to be someone else online? I’m swiping left.