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In the early 2000s, a friend tried to convince me that as video games and other online presences got more and more immersive and real, people would replace human friends with virtual ones. I argued that no, humans would remain human. I wonder which of us was right.

Once an old-fashioned con man or grifter was found out, there were ways of controlling or punishing them. Maybe this control began slipping away with the invention of the telephone, which is still a common tool for hoodwinking the unsuspecting. I have searched out available methods  to prevent scam calls, and in my house, they are fewer but keep coming.

Slowly, the onus for dealing with phone, then computer, grift has shifted to the consumer. I didn’t like being forced to search out the customer service phone number, in miniscule print, at the very bottom of the web page, to call when something went awry, but I was forced to accept this task. Sometimes there is no phone number and I must sort through page after page of FAQs and guides to fix the problem myself (talking to you, Facebook). When my Miele vacuum cleaner didn’t work as advertised, I was told to take it to a sewing shop two hours from my home to have it inspected and, if necessary, returned. Would you spend your precious life driving four hours to and from a sewing shop for help with a vacuum cleaner?

We live in an atmosphere of shameless disrespect of the consumer, and that degrades my humanity. The millions or billions of hours spent by consumers fixing problems are a significant drain on American productivity. The value of the consumer’s time and torture are added to the corporation’s bottom line.

But AI and fake people are threatening further damage.

I have over 2,000 friends on Facebook. It’s where I communicate about my books and one of the places where my blog posts are published, so I don’t want to close my account, yet I receive fake “Friend Me” requests or fake contacts every day, usually military doctors (especially surgeons) or oil rig workers. They are fairly attractive men, and there is usually a photo of them in uniform or in scrubs. There is an exotic detail (the “William Morris” below lives in Paris), and he is usually widowed.  (FYI, though the X handle suggests Mr. Morris’s authenticity, a search for william.brown.591313 yields “no results.”)

Some people say the motive behind these fake personae is to make money off the rare but profitable poor soul who is desperate for love, cognitively declining, or suffering from ignorance. I am told there is a building in Ghana where these Facebook persons are generated. Motive and location mean nothing to me, except that I know the people involved are unreachable and impossible to hold to account, except by Facebook, X, dating and job sites, and all other sites where they post.

The constant pounding of my Facebook page with fake personages affects me emotionally. The unidentifiable infidels are at the gates and though they are easily rebuffed, they are working on an agenda that might break into my systems or my bank account if I’m not vigilant. They break through often enough to make their fraud profitable.

Fakeness is even more dangerous on online dating sites. Everyone on a dating site is vulnerable in a way that someone on Facebook is not. They are actively looking for connection, not passive recipients of a contact.

I recently began a research project by joining some dating sites to see how that world had changed since 2006, the last time I was on them.

A lot has changed and only for the worse (see previous blog posts), but the most disturbing change was that many of the men I engaged with on the sites were not real.  “Peter” “liked” me and we exchanged some messages. It didn’t take long to detect inconsistencies in the information he was giving me, so I reported him to OKCupid. They confirmed that he was a fraud, not a Canadian military orthopedic surgeon with a very cute dog. He didn’t exist at all.

A few days later, I began exchanging messages with “Fred” on He was consistent, even witty, not dull like “Peter,” but he failed to follow through on lines of conversation, so I wondered if he was real. I got a message from that “Fred” was fraudulent. They were contacting all the people “Fred” had engaged with. Their discipline was after the fact. They should never have allowed either “Peter” or “Fred” on their site in the first place. If the gatekeepers like Facebook, LinkedIn, X, and online dating and job sites have no way, or choose not to vet who is on their systems, they are signing their own death warrant because consumers and users will lose trust in them.

Job sites are full of fakery. Job seekers are as vulnerable and scared as people looking for love. The Better Business Bureau states that employment scams have increased. The scams include AI-generated jobs and companies, Ponzi schemes, illegitimate job boards or companies, fake URLs, photos, and company names, fake AI job interviews, invitations to join a Google Doc you wouldn’t ordinarily use, fake training (paid up front) for jobs that don’t exist, and so on. And on. And on. The proliferation of fakery is complicating job searches for applicants and also government data, since up to 50% of job listings are estimated to be fake, yet they are counted when evaluating the employment picture in the country. This fakery has the potential of skewing our view of the economy,  thus the allocation of research and resources, and along with the other “consumer comes last” schemes, wasting the user’s valuable time and money.

The advice is, as usual, caveat emptor. It’s all up to the consumer, who must take the time to verify each contact and job offered. There are, apparently, some reliable job seeking sites, which proves that there are means to weed out fraud before it reaches the consumer.

I can feel myself contracting. The power, trust, and confidence that I have ceded to online sites is withering. The feeling of helplessness and embarrassment when I misjudge a contact and engage with a fake entity are corrosive to my mind and my heart. Losing faith in one online system invites skepticism or avoidance of all online systems.

We, the collective, can either accept that our efforts, thoughts, and feelings are going fall into a void at least some of the time, or we can turn once again to reliable, face-to-face encounters. This is no idle choice. Which systems and practices will we continue to believe in? Or will we reject them all, eroding all we ever called holy?

Human beings have evolved to be dependent on one another for food, protection, inspiration, and family. All of these sources of security have been corrupted or coarsened, and so far, we accept that fact. We have lost connection with what we eat, causing widespread obesity and food-caused illness; instead of protecting each other, 30,000+ Americans annually are killed by our weaponry; churches and educational institutions have become partisan dividers; and the nuclear family has been melted down by divorce.

We must take seriously the attempts to devalue or time, our faith in the systems that have always sustained us, our bodies, our minds, and the way we love and need each other. I was born a long time ago (two months after Pearl Harbor) and AI and robotic relationships are profoundly unwelcome to me, but younger generations may feel differently. Perhaps interacting with a video game character or a fake human feels good to them. I exchanged messages on one site with a man who asked if I’d like to join him and his partner in “cyberplay,” a cute name for virtual sex. That holds no appeal for me, but he and his partner enjoy it. Fine. But we should not lose sight of the fact that such changes in our interactions will entail a re-positioning of almost everything we have ever relied upon for stability.

As I see it, the ”consumer comes last” philosophy is joining with AI to create an environment of constant, toxic threat to our mental, financial, and emotional well-being. Who is going to protect us?