Last week, I spent some time chatting with an anonymous Facebook profile known as Amor Enim (very recently re-named to Kristeva Pigouvian), an avowed communist. Alex Knepper had recently doxxed her as a probable paid Russian troll, but her awareness of local issues and her French proficiency made me doubt that narrative. Her extensive knowledge of an assortment of topics also made her interesting to engage with, a mystery I wanted to investigate for myself.

‘Sarah’ claimed to be a 21-year-old bisexual nurse from Montreal, a graduate of Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. In contrast to her thoroughly political and abrasive persona on comment threads, in our conversations she was flirtatious and shy, and she emphasized again and again that she was ‘submissive’. For a time, I believed that she might simply be a precocious young person, possibly a genius. But the hints kept coming that she wasn’t real: she repeatedly pumped me for personal information without ever offering up anything of comparable specificity. A sizable portion of our three-day correspondence, which probably totaled four or five hours of conversation, consisted of her dropping barely disguised suggestions that I should leave my girlfriend. I was sufficiently distracted by the philosophical content of our discussions to persist; I thought her advances to be harmless, and that if she was indeed a real person, she’d eventually relent. In retrospect, many of the things she said were expressly designed to match what she believed I wanted to hear.

On the day I blocked her, she tried to get me to describe my preferred female physical type. I gave the answer that I give to almost anyone who would bother to ask: that I have none. So she decided to proceed by process of elimination. I resisted giving any answers for the most part, but her inquiry culminated with her sending me a naked picture, purportedly of herself. When this didn’t get the reaction she expected – namely, more attention – she became desperate, messaging me continually despite my having told her that I had to go. I related my experience to Knepper, and I discovered that ‘Sarah’ had first introduced herself to him as a gay male. I blocked her, and a few days later her Facebook name had changed.

Since then, ‘Sarah’ has tried to contact me by sending an email to my work account, and has also tried to publicly defame me by posting an allegation of sexual misconduct on my RateMyTeachers profile. I’m on the fence about who she actually is: my instincts say she might at least be from Quebec, because our politics are sufficiently insular so that their finer points would be unknown to someone from Russia—but I’m sure there are strategies to get around these kinds of barriers. I am inclined to believe that she’s just a catfish, a lonely person looking to fill a void online. But the content of our interaction lends equal credibility to the theory that she might be someone engaged in blackmail, identity theft, or just plain trolling for financial gain.

—Phil Lagogiannis