Many years ago when I first moved to Reading I lived in a shared house with three other twenty-something males. Three of us had relocated for work purposes. The fourth who, for reasons of anonymity we’ll call Dan (although coincidentally that also happens to be his real name) told us that he didn’t need to work on account of his parents’ acrimonious divorce and their subsequent attempts to out-spoil him. He sat at home most days drinking Stella, eating bucket loads of chicken wings that he bought from ‘Mr. Cod’ (virtually next door) and howling obscenities at the television.
One day we returned home to find him in a state of mortification. The gig was up. His parents were onto him. No further funds would be forthcoming. He was to do the unspeakable and find a job. After several failed attempts he got himself paid work as a security guard at the local shopping centre.
Less than a week after he started the job I discovered my two other housemates in the lounge laughing uncontrollably. Unable to speak one of them handed me a piece of paper. It appeared that Dan had not enjoyed his time as a security guard, but too ashamed to admit he couldn’t hack the work, had decided that his departure would be more palatable if the reason was a little more elaborate. As such he’d written a letter to the head of security posing as his sister and stated that he could no longer come to work as he’d been involved in a car crash and had, had one of his arms amputated.
My housemates’ mirth was not caused by the excuse, but rather the reply he’d received from the head of security – one of the finest works of literature I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Amongst it’s many well-crafted stanzas two sentences stand out: “We were even more concerned when he contacted your next of kin and discovered they were unaware of your accident. If you could get someone else to hold the phone against your ears perhaps you could call them (presuming you skill have ears)?” And “As your uniform was found in the locker we can only presume you were planning to leave anyway before this most tragic of events.”
I remember he was very angry that they hadn’t paid him, but could think of no legitimate way to complain.
Engaged in the black art of self-promotion as I am, I am constantly bewildered by the sheer volume of exaggeration and out an out lying that takes place in everyday life. I’m not talking about the adulterous / of-course-I-didn’t-burry-her-in-the-woods type exaggeration (i.e. things worth lying about). I’m talking about the little things, like describing a cappuccino as ‘awesome’ or any use of the term ‘LOL’ (surely a killable offence (if that’s not hypocrisy?)).
The latest bee in my bonnet (hyperbole: I don’t own a bonnet) is the emergence of companies that charge to generate fake comments / likes / views / re-tweets etc online. I’ll admit, when I first started promoting my music (Martin’s music) I did try one of them – paid the princely sum of £8, and 48-hours later one of my songs had been listened to 5000 times, but no one had liked it (I hadn’t paid for that) and none of the people were real. Their avatars had been lifted from other users and they had not really listened to my work. They were simply bots clicking on a link. Having decided that it wasn’t a virtuous thing to have done I deleted the song, re-uploaded it and by the end of that day it had been listed to 30 times and liked 8. I felt satisfied. This was an honest picture of the world. I had connected with 30 individuals and properly connected with 8 – Hardly setting the music industry alight, but a true reflection of reality.
I read an online article about a rapper who had over 100K Twitter / Sound cloud followers, all of whom were fake. It posed the question: How does he feel when he reads computer-generated comments that declare ‘You are a rock God’ and ‘Dope’? Or beholds the giant list of fans, none of whom have ever listened to a single note of the tunes he has so lovingly sampled from proper musicians (!) but who have cost him an arm and a leg to acquire?
It’s as if he has taken the Turing artificial intelligence test and the computer has failed him! And he isn’t even an isolated example. The practice is becoming widespread. Now, whenever I see a Facebook link with 20K likes I think: There’s a good chance that’s not real.
I went for lunch last week at a bar I hadn’t frequented in over a year. The place had been renovated. I struck up a conversation with the owner about the changes. Turns out that the previous owner woke up one morning ten months ago, rang the brewery and said ‘So, it’s like this – I’ve had enough – the keys are on the bar’ (click), and off he went, owing in access of fifty grand. No one had seen him since. That’s excited and not made-up.
Another thing that really happened was that I was sitting at a beachside café with an old school friend last weekend. I mentioned that one of my greatest regrets in life was my failure to corral a bunch of co-workers into getting drunk, attending a matinee show by Britain’s premium children’s entertainers ‘The Chuckle Brothers’ and heckling them. My friend replied:
‘Oh I met them once. Tried to get them to go drinking with me, but they declined – gave me a signed photo of the two of them sitting in a cockpit. I did however get annihilated (hyperbole) with a Tommy Cooper impersonator – Guy was phenomenal – Never broke character once!’
Rant over. Mother Teresa put it better than me: ‘Life’s a dream, realise it.’