A 4chan-engendered prank aimed at male users of online dating sites such as OKCupid and PlentyOfFish.com brought out the best and the worst of the internet tonight, when the e-forces of good and evil clashed by a set of payphones at 46th and Broadway in Times Square.
The elaborate gag, planned more than a month ago and circulated on 4chan and other forums, was for mischevious netizens to create fake dating profiles for women and set up dates with single “forever alone” men online. The dates were all supposed to meet on Friday night at the payphones on Broadway, which happen to be under a live streaming webcam, so the OKCupid/PlentyOfFish single guys could then be stood up en masse and snarked at by the much cooler 4chan/Reddit single guys sitting alone on their computers at home.
Betabeat sidled up to a grip of four guys in t-shirts standing across from the payphones which were swarmed with photographers and onlookers. One young man identified himself as Mr. White on TheRoganBoard, another as FifthSurprise from Reddit, a third as MatrixGravity from GameTrailers, and a fourth who was not from the internet and thus didn’t have a name. He was MatrixGravity’s friend. Didn’t he think this was really mean, we asked, figuring he was from the real world. “I think it’s hilarious,” he said.
Mr. White, who had pasted a poster of the contorted stick figure face that represents the “forever alone” meme, was arching his cellphone over his head. “There’s so many fucking losers out there, you know somebody’s going to fucking show up,” he said.
Had they ever real-life trolled before, we asked?
“I once told my girlfriend I had AIDS,” Mr. White said. “Then I broke up with her.” They laughed.
Betabeat could verify three guys who had actually been duped. Mr. Bright Blue Shirt, about 23, who had been leaning against a mailbox next to the payphones for about 20 minutes when Betabeat asked him what he was there for. “Oh no, that’s funny,” he said when Betabeat showed him the flier for the prank. “That’s not me. I’ve only been here about five minutes. I’m meeting a friend at 8:30.” He left shortly afterward.
A man–blue checkered shirt, tie, blue eyes and long eyelashes–tapped on his BlackBerry by the TGIFridays.
“I guess I should leave,” he said, when Betabeat explained to him the prank, and started to tear away. “My date’s not coming,” he said. Wait, could we get a quote? “That’s okay,” he said, quickening his stride in the opposite direction of the subway. He was very sweet.
But the internet isn’t all cruel. Steven Liu of Lean Startup Machine had brought roses for the forever loners and recruited three girls to replace their misfired dates. “It seems like everyone here is in on the joke,” he said, as he filmed the scene with a Flip cam.
Around 8 p.m. a cute redhead in braids approached a confused, brown haired 20-something who was BlackBerrying in the cave of one of the payphones. She spoke to him, he smiled, and they walked off awkwardly hand-in-hand. “This is the end of ‘forever alone,’” Mr. Liu whispered.