Like most people, one of my least favorite things is spam. The evolution of spam — more of a devolution, actually — is quite fascinating, however.
In the 1990s, the most common spam I remember was the “Nigerian Princess” meme. As I’m sure anyone Internet-savvy enough to read this blog knows, this involved an elaborate plea for money to save a Nigerian royal, who would return the favor by adding millions to said spamee’s bank account. Even at twelve, I knew this was a load of crap, but apparently, lots of people fell for it. Currently, many online companies do not accept transactions coming from Nigeria, so I suppose it caused quite a bit of antipathy. While these spam efforts seem flimsy, at the very least their goal is clear. They do use some amount of logic, providing a clear path from their e-mails to a spamee’s pocketbook.
Oddly, in the years since these e-mails were rampant, the logic of spam has inexplicably deteriorated. When I got a Gmail account, the most common kind of spam I got was simply filled with gibberish. I’m not really sure what this was supposed to accomplish. It never seemed to be selling anything, and if it contained a virus, my little Mac was never affected. As useless as these are, they don’t really hurt anything and are pretty tame.
However, most recently, I have come to see how far the brilliant intellectual exercise of spamming has fallen. This brings us to my current blog, which garners a completely new kind of spam — the spam comment. I don’t really understand spam to begin with, but this is really mind-boggling. I think that the point of a spam comment is that it will appear on my site, and visitors will click on the links, creating some kind of revenue for someone. However, since all comments need to be approved, this is quite unproductive, and a huge waste of my time. I’ve found that since being in China, the number of spamments I get per day varies, ranging from two or three to over 20.
These spamments come in four varieties:
1. Run-of-the-mill gibberish. These comments contain links and random numbers and letters. They’re pretty intellectually harmless, and at their most productive could plausibly be made into postmodern poetry.
2. Run-of-the-mill Viagra advertisements. I don’t have a penis, and I certainly don’t need Viagra, but apparently I’m still worth the spambot’s time. I really don’t get this.
3. Run-of-the-mill porn advertisements. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Really, really sick porn advertisements. Explanation likely not desired by readers, but here‘s a sample if you’re curious.
It’s category four that really gets my goat. As I’ve previously stated, it’s incredibly unlikely that a spamment like this would appear on my blog. But even if it did, it still has to be one of the dumbest attempts at spam in the history of the universe. And it’s the most numerous of all four categories. That’s right. On a given day, I go through up to 60 of these ridiculous comments, deleting tens at a time.
Here’s the thing. If you’re attempting to spam someone out of money, you’re up against pretty big odds. Most Internet users today are pretty aware of spam, and can easily spot the signs of it. Accordingly, to improve their odds, spammers need to reach a huge number of people in hopes that a select few will actually believe that some girl with large breasts really is waiting to chat a stranger up online, or a Nigerian prince truly trusts his future to some housewife in Nebraska. To do so, they often appeal to our human weaknesses of pride, sexual appetite and/or greed.
The Nigerians clearly grasped this concept, in that their offer appeals to pretty much everyone. It offers both the ego-stroking idea that one could be someone else’s savior, and the bait of millions of dollars. Motivation-wise, it’s pretty solid. Run-of-the-mill porn spamments also pass the motivational test, since most people do have libidoes, and certainly some will click out of curiosity.
However, very, very few people are into beastiality and incest — or even more specialized categories within those categories. So what exactly is the logic behind my really sick spamments? They use a method — commenting on a family blog — that is highly unlikely to succeed, and they use bait that few people find attractive. Who exactly thought this scheme up, and who approved it? It just doesn’t make any sense. I know I probably shouldn’t be upset that spammers seem to be getting dumber, but I’m someone who believes in evolution and progress. Is the devolution of spam really a victory for us as a species, or does it speak to an unstoppable slide into complete idiocy?
Apologies if I ruined anyone’s appetite with this post. Now you know what I deal with every day just to keep my blog “family friendly.”