Online Reality IS A Reality (It’s Just Not “Reality”)


I’m reading with interest the saga of “Nicole Mincey”—the namesake of a self-described “black conservative” pro-Trump Twitter account that the President recently thanked. The avatar on the account turned out to be a stock photo. The person attached to the account was tracked down and was verified to indeed be “a” Nicole Mincey (with a slightly different name)…but almost everything else about the account was fake—all apparently part of a “bot” scheme.

As the Twitter “friends” of the ersatz Nicole Mincey were examined…many turned out to be fakes and stock photos as well.

Per The Daily Beast:

There was Lex, the electric blonde “model, brand ambassador, and Trump supporter” from North Arlington, New Jersey. She blogged on Mincey’s website and was actually a stock photo on Twitter. There was Rio Grande from the “Great Land of Texas,” with the gun emoji in his profile. He wrote articles on like “Religion of Peace Strikes Again” after the Manchester Arena bombing, and was also a stock photo on Twitter. There was Kendra Manning from Miami Beach and David from South Carolina and Chinami K, “a Japanese American LEGAL immigrant,” emphasis hers.

Did Trump knowingly interact with a fake account? Was he instead “fooled” by a fake account designed to support him?

The fact is, there is a whole fake social media account “ecosystem” online—you know it, I know it, I’d like to say “everybody” knows it but that’s probably not true. It is a true ecosystem—dynamic and interdependent on a web of different political affiliations, corporate entities, shitposters, and etc.

You may say that this “bot ecosystem” and network of shills, con-artists, and marketing professionals have created the very opposite of what we believe is “reality”…but by this point, I believe they have all built an alternative reality within which we all swim when we decide to use these social media platforms. This alternative reality is a reality; and it influences the media, elections, and even our own interactions and personal expressions online.

But isn’t so much of what we see on social media—even among our own peer group (the ones who aren’t bots)—a type of alternative reality as well? These are the “faces” we choose to present to the world, even when using our own names, our own photos as avatars. We scroll through Facebook every day, several times a day, incessantly…and what we see is a tableau of friends and family that isn’t quite “reality” either. But, when compared to the “Trumpbot” reality, one could say that your “friends and followers” reality is the preferred reality.

We are reality-shapers, every day of our lives, every hour and every minute. Only…sometimes people get paid to shape the realities of others. I may fret over getting myself “just right” for my online avatar selfie—the lighting, the hair, the proper ironic expression—but other peeps just use iStockphoto.

And some don’t even buy the stock photos; they will just run that avatar with a watermark right over his or her damn face. And somehow…they will still have more Twitter “friends” than me.

Perhaps that’s what really bothers me about the entire thing. I feel like…I’m “doing it wrong.” That I am not fully taking advantage of all the reality-shaping tools that the Internet offers me (every second of every day).

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

I become President?