Computer superhighway can give you the creeps

October 28, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

The home computer industry is booming. And a female friend who has spent time on the information superhighway believes she has discovered a reason for its sudden popularity.

"Based on my experience and those of some friends," she says, "the computer world appeals to a significant segment of the male population. They are the creeps. Or maybe in the computer world, they should be called 'cybercreeps.' "

The cybercreep, as she described him, is a person who uses his computer and phone to connect to commercial on-line message services or the vast Internet.

Then he hides behind a phony name -- "his handle" -- and says things that would probably get him punched in the face or arrested if he said them to someone in a public place.

He is a high-tech version of a flasher or a telephone breather -- the Chester the Molester of the 1990s.

"I'm used to it now," says Patricia, the cybercreep expert. "But when it first started happening, I thought: 'Wow, this is sort of like the Tailhook thing without the pinch marks.'

"As soon as they spot the handle of a woman, it starts. The other night I got a message that said: 'Hi, babe, want to talk about sex, straight, oral, whatever you like?'

"In my entire life, I've never run into anyone in a bar or anyplace else who has introduced himself that way."

Of course not. If a stranger walked into a neighborhood tavern and went up to the nearest female and said: "Hi, babe, want to talk about sex, straight, oral, whatever you like?" it's possible that those men of the non-creep persuasion might react chivalrously by knocking him down and jumping on his chest.

But while sitting in the privacy of his home, the cybercreep can send off any message that emerges from the woolly caterpillars nesting in his brain.

"I had one guy send me a message asking if I had any clothes on," Patricia says. "He wrote: 'I don't. Want me to describe myself? You'll be impressed.'

"I believed him. Not about being impressed, but about sitting there naked. I could just see him, some lonely guy with no chin and a flabby body like bread dough, sitting there with old copies of Hustler and Playmate stacked up around him.

"Or maybe he's married and his wife went to bed and he said he is going to stay up in his den and work on some stuff he brought home from the office. Then he sits there looking for someone like me so he can breathe real hard.

"Really, ask any woman who goes on line where people don't have to use real names. If they use a handle that indicates they are women, the cybercreeps come out like a swarm of insects.

"So if I want to go on for a serious conversation, information, or even for fun, I use a handle that makes it sound like I'm a man. And an old man, because if you use one that makes you sound like you are a young guy, maybe attractive, you might get hit on by some other young guy. It can really be a zoo out there."

Actually, I'm not sure if that is an entirely bad thing.

Consider that there are well over 250 million people in this country. It is inevitable that several million of them will be creeps of one kind or another. Mother Nature, a prankster at times, seems to want it that way.

It is essential for a creep to express himself. Ask any shrink. So the computer provides those millions of creeps who are literate with a relatively harmless way of expressing their creepiness.

Otherwise they might be showing up at school yards or subway platforms and suddenly flinging open their topcoats to display -- their strange manhood. Or maybe they would be drooling on their phone books as they look for female names.

I have a hunch that if some police agency did a study, they would find that the traditional cases of schoolyard flashers, phone breathers and other weirdness will have declined as the sale of home computers has gone up.

So it is far better that they stay at home, in the glow of their color monitor, playing with their mouse or whatever, than popping out from behind a bush and causing some defenseless biddy to shriek: "Eek, a phallic symbol!"

I'm sure that a judge one day will tell someone: "Before I sentence you, do you wish to say anything to justify dropping your trousers in a full elevator?" "Yes, your honor," the creep will -- say, "I couldn't get my modem working."

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