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Profile-Thieving Is the New Swagger-Jacking

By Christopher Schonberger

The new breed of identity thieves are leaving behind your Social Security and credit card numbers and instead going after the true essence of who you are as a person—your social networking profiles!

Could be worse, right? I agree wholeheartedly. I would much rather have someone steal my jokes—or even my thunder, for that matter (1)—than my money. But this Wall Street Journal article suggests that people are pretty miffed about rampant profile-jacking plaguing the ‘net, especially when it comes to exhibiting that elusive cocktail of wit and quirkiness that is the currency of love on online dating sites.

The main culprits appear to be semi-sad sounding singles in their thirties and forties who steal “about me” descriptions that don’t even seem worth the effort, such as “I am the type of person that likes to think of my glass as half full” and “I have a sweet tooth, love my strawberry twizzlers and cheesecake jelly beans.” The first one is huge cliché, and the second one is just an admission of some totally uncool candy preferences that are in no way appropriate for a man of 35.

What worries me is not so much the act of profile snatching, but rather the psychology of what people choose to steal. Even in social networks, where accountability runs low and the potential for personal reinvention is disproportionately high, homogeneity is a rampant as ever. Of course, part of this phenomenon can be chalked up to the “game” of matchmaking, in which people try to toe the line between “having a personality” and “playing it safe.” And the only way to truly play it safe is to run with the herd. Case in point: my brother’s Match.com profile describes him as a “minor Internet celebrity,” notes his interest in tattoos, and declares, “Moderately Interesting Man Seeks More Interesting Woman.” Needless to say, he never gets any dates. Meanwhile, these balding office workers who “borrow” liberally from the online community have more dates than their aggressive Halo schedule can accommodate (though, admittedly, they are mostly with women my brother would not want to see naked).

I suggest that we all take a moment to reassess our Facebook, MySpace, and Match profiles today and inject a little creativity into our game. Delete those Anchorman quotes, nix any mention of board games from your interests (this is neither cute, ironic, nor cool), and do not say that your favorite book is “anything Shakespeare.” At least say The Norton Shakespeare, which is at least an actual book that exists, but still not a reasonable “favorite” for various reasons.

(1) I stole that joke from Alan Partridge. Did you find me humorous in a sexually attractive way?

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