In 2020, I wrote a series of articles about fake freelance reviews and projects. These stories had some serious real-life consequences. It was a win-win. It felt nice that digital justice was served. I was a wannabe tech investigative "journalist" who made a big corporation apologize officially and refund my fellow freelancers. That felt even nicer.
I got the Noonies2020 Reward for the Most Controversial Writer of the Year.
Oh boy, those were the days! You just couldn't beat that feeling.
I didn't kid myself.
I knew all too well that we're living in the digital world that suffers from chronic "fakeism."
It's not only fake news that I'm talking about. I really don't want to go down that rabbit hole. You got tired, older, not necessarily wiser, and you train yourself to look the other way. Did it work for me?
No! Because when it becomes personal, it hurts like hell. And, this is where my story about fake social media followers really begins.
You are just like my teenage daughter, aren't you? You don't appreciate this classic rock headline combination of two immortal songs I just came up with. The good old days when the bands have awesome names and logos.
So, here comes my little angel with that look in her eyes. Option one: What did you do now? Option two: What do you want or need now?
Nowadays, when you listen to teenagers, the best you can do is to focus your attention on keywords. "Birthday gift." "My bestie." "Special." "Important."
"OK. How much money do you need?"
"It's not only about the money. You have to do something too."
What could it be? I'm rolling my eyes. I'm desperately trying to guess. It's pointless. These little monsters have more powerful processors.
"My BFFs and I want a birthday gift that's the GOAT for Maya. She wants more followers for her Insta. We promised her at least 10K, each. It's not too much. I checked."
"I will get back to you."
I was Gone With the Wind - Delux Edition. I needed some time to process what I just heard.
If you haven't seen the HBO documentary "Fake Famous," you should (not). It's a scary movie, but not in a funny way. The great lengths all wannabe influencers are willing to go to make their fake dreams come true are surreal.
Sadly, that's just the tip of the fake iceberg.
Even The New York Times couldn't avoid writing about the "fake follower factories." It turned out that the teenagers were the least of our digital credibility problems:
The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying.
All you have to do is type "buy Instagram followers" in Google, and see for yourself. It's the industry that takes itself seriously. The ads about "products & services" are no joke.
This isn't an oxymoron because the money is real, and it keeps flowing despite public "criticism" and "stigmatization." There are countless real followers "checkers," but who cares? Everybody is doing it. You'd be surprised, if you have the time to investigate and check for yourself.
Honestly, I couldn't care less. I was preoccupied with my own dilemmas and available options. Option A: I do as I'm told and expected, and I feel bad. I didn't sign up for this when I decided to become a parent. Option B: I send my only child to a birthday party with a fifty bucks Amazon gift card, and make her feel bad. The kids can be cruel. Nah, that's just an urban myth.
My wife. My rock. "She asked you not me. Sorry, I have to take care of something." I was looking at our French poodle - Fifi, and thinking. What happened to the classics, such as I-want-a-puppy?!
The clock is ticking. I wasn't blinking.
But, the night is darkest just before the dawn.
I remembered that once I used to write blogs for a client who makes lenses for iPhones. "If you want to be an Instagram Pro, give our iPhone lenses a go!" I wrote something like that.
Yeah, it's more expensive than paying for a bunch of fake followers, but it's a cool gift. Above all else, it is - ethical and practical.
It took some convincing, and a few cheesy lines, such as "your gift will be best," and "what's the point of having all those followers if you can't produce pro pictures?" Sold! Case closed! The world is saved! Moving on.
Take me down to the paradise city...
...and to the time when Instagram was not yet invented.
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