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July 1, 2008

what i did last month

last month i asked people on twitter whether they would allow me to take over their facebook accounts for a week. Within a half hour I had to remove the request due to the volume of incoming username and passwords. I selected two people that were in the medium friend range and appeared to use facebook in an active way, and asked for a one page "how-to" guide on how to be them before i started. Here is a description of that week in the words of one of the people i took over :: Lessons Learned from Ze Frank (Being Me) (shorter version) :: and x... gets the square - Ze Frank Wuzz Inside My Internetzz...! (same person, in more detail)

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Comments (28)

Very interesting. I noticed that both of the people who you took over ended up confronting the issue of what an online persona actually is. I'd love to hear your thoughts about taking over someone else's persona.

Posted by: Jahn at July 1, 2008 10:00 PM

In response to the questions at the end of Christine's longer evalutaion of this experience about internet vs. authenticity:

It's true that Facebook--in addition to being somewhat addictive (exactly why is another good question...)--is an easily-manipulated abstraction of reality and often includes the circulation of (to use Christine's phrase) a lot of "bull$hit". So, Facebook, like much of the internet, can be faked, and is probably full of fakery. However--does that mean it is potentially untrustworthy? Is it useless because it is falsifiable?

A better question is: why do we hold Facebook and the internet to a different standard than other aspects of life? I know the tendency of the current zeitgeist is to turn our analytical radar on the internet and dissect it, likely because it's one of the newest and thus unreckoned facets of modern life--but I don't think this impulse to try on new personas or even to sometimes be blatantly dishonest about who you are is inherently internet. Rather, it is inherently human (don't think so? ...ever been on a job interview? a first date? selling to a customer? It is exceedingly rare that anyone is 100% themselves during these delicate social interactions).

Using computers and the internet have not necessarily changed our behavior, but like most other tasks they have been drafted to assist us with, they have augmented the scope and accelerated the consequences.

Posted by: Christian at July 2, 2008 9:09 AM

Sorry, kept thinking about this and realized the next logical follow up experiment: instead of using the internet to take over someone's internet persona, use it to take over their real persona. I'm not talking identity theft here, but more like a SpyTech Cyrano De Bergerac (..anyone else remember those SpyTech toys?)--rig the subject's person with a small camera and a wireless earpiece, watch watch they see, and give them cues on how to react to the situations they're in. It would be like having a net-powered Jimminy Cricket sitting on your shoulder. Applications: intensive character actor training, real time life-coaching, ...virtual schizophrenia modeling? Or, another really bad virtual reality TV show.

Posted by: Christian at July 2, 2008 9:19 AM

that was fantastic. What a visceral way to explore the relationship between real me and virtual me. I like the implacations. I wonder if I can outsource all of social networking. maybe, for 12 cents a day, I can find some guy in Bangladash to maintain my secondary friendships that I tend to ignore. (maybe he would be maintaing a relationship with my friend's surrogate) "have your people call my people"

Posted by: Andrew A at July 2, 2008 10:21 AM

Last summer, I set my birthday on Facebook to May 24th. I got a few dozen "Happy birthdays" via Facebook. Right after that, I set my birthday to May 31st. On May 31st, I got a couple dozen MORE "Happy birthdays." A small of handful of people noticed, but there were a surprising number of people who said happy birthday to me twice without even noticing.

My birthday is in August.

Posted by: Nik at July 2, 2008 11:21 AM

This was a good idea. Perhaps we should learn to call or meet up with our friends rather than giving them daily social pixels. After all, if you don't socialise 4real yo you'll have nothing to photograph and put on facebook.

Posted by: stephope at July 2, 2008 1:02 PM

Wow - very interesting response to this social experiment. It calls into question the concept of identity online, but also the concept of branding that we all push so hard. At what point do we let our "internet brand" overtake the real us?

Posted by: Leslie Poston at July 5, 2008 10:03 AM

Kickass. I love Christine's impressions and story regarding the whole shebang. The trend of escapists like me engaging in "identity molding" (so keeping that phrase) through blogs, facebook, etc, investing so much of ourselves in the virtual reality, that we forget that we don't need it. The intarw3b is superfluous to human life on this planet. It's cool, it's fun, we get to experience in a diluted, abstract form people, places and stuff that we wouldn't otherwise have as much or any contact with. Plus there's the games and being able to look shit up quickly and pretend that we knew it in the first place. But I exist outside the box. And it never fails to trip me out how tripped out I get when I'm forced to face that fact.

Facebook is a real treat though, because, let's face it, there's normally a lack of responsibility and concern about social acceptability when we frolic through online fields. But on Facebook, that's where anonymity, our natural playfulness, sense of personal adventure, lack of consequences, freedom of identity can get thrown up against the wall by the social (or personality) norms that we normally live by. The moral dilemma represented by Christine is an interesting one. Are you an asshole for deceiving your friends into thinking someone else is you? Or is it their own dumb fault for believing everything they read on and into Facebook?

And who gives a shit anyway?

It's all in good fun Jim.

Posted by: Steff at July 6, 2008 8:30 AM


You mean like David Letterman did more than a decade ago?

Posted by: Mark at July 7, 2008 11:19 AM

funny. my gut reaction to the initial suggestion was fear and i've only just figured out why:
1. what if i don't like the reflection of me (i.e. the takeover person's idea of me) would this mean that i am misrepresenting myself? or worse, that they interpreted correctly and that i don't like this internet me.
2. what if something happened as a result that i am not prepared for? the contact i make and interaction i participate in has to do with a "readiness" that i feel. i would fear the change in relationships that wasn't related to my own deliberate actions.

i really did appreciate the comments about the virtual world becoming a somewhat overwhelming part of life, to the detriment of really living. i wonder about this a lot and take steps back from my online life occasionally, but inevitably i'm drawn back since i've created real and important friendships online as well.

i have never met someone (in the real world) who i initially met online and wonder what that would mean. mostly, i wonder if they would be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. :)

i think that this was a brave project on both your part and on the participants part.

what i'm still curious about is... what did you (Ze) learn? what was weird? what was cool? what freaked you out? made you laugh?

Posted by: ingrid at July 7, 2008 12:47 PM

I'm sorry im not quite as deep and knoledgeable as the rest of you guys here but I do know enough to say that I think that what your doing is really interesting. I think that it will be a cool way for the two lucky people who will have there acounts taken over to see how other people inturpet them.

(its good to see your still making things Ze)

Posted by: Adam K at July 7, 2008 11:30 PM

This made me think of you:


Posted by: Anna at July 8, 2008 10:58 PM

very interesting

Posted by: raymi at July 9, 2008 4:03 PM

I think you would like the effort made in this site. The Spagetti Western is impressive.

Posted by: steph at July 10, 2008 2:48 AM

very nice. I didn´t know about that!

Posted by: Diego at July 10, 2008 5:48 PM

If Ze won't marry me will he at least take over my match.com profile for a week. I don't have a match.com profile, but I would start one if ze would be me.

Posted by: Jazz at July 12, 2008 4:33 PM

Very Interesting...kind of like a virtual "Being John Malkovich"

It makes me think about other aspects of life and how others can easily manipulate us with (or without) our knowledge.

I see people everyday that are not able to or do not want to think for themselves. Whether its through a family member, a significant other or the media, its seems people want somebody else to come up with a persona or personality for them.

It think it is something ingrained in us early...so many people when we are young telling us what we should and shouldn't do and what we should and shouldn't be. We need to become a culture that allows its young to think for themselves at an early age. I don't have any kids myself so I can't imagine how hard this would be. But I think that if we teach our kids and discipline our kids with this, at least, in the back of our mind then eventually it will be come the norm.

Once we start to think this way we can get past the big media and start to question what people want us to be and why.

Just something to think about

Posted by: fortjohnson at July 16, 2008 10:43 PM

Isn't it amazing what people will let you do when you just ask? Kinda scary.

Posted by: Jef at August 7, 2008 9:45 PM

Man, I love how simple yet amazing most of your ideas are.

That sounds like that would be fun to do in general, just with a friend.

Posted by: Ken Ward at November 4, 2008 5:06 PM

Want to take my real life over for a week? I'm sure I can find you a conference to go to under my name!

Posted by: Donald at November 19, 2008 1:05 PM

LoL. at school my teacher thinks this is a cool site

Posted by: magen at December 11, 2008 11:49 AM

I grew up without this sort of thing and have always met people in real life. Like outside. But I have recently become addicted and it does remain same. I am only friends online with people I have meet out there in the world. Is that weird and should I get over that?

Posted by: Matt at December 21, 2008 1:49 PM

Perhaps it would have been more interesting if it could have affected them in a genuine way rather than "gee I had more time to do shopping and crap! I can't believe I should be getting away from my computer now and then! Wow!".

Ughh, at least try a different age range or sex. The bubblegum novel christine wrote in her blog reminded me why I missed the days when online networking was composed of nerds instead of socialites.

It only works if they are never allowed to revert to their old profile. Otherwise, the illusion is forgiven as a prank and no one cares.

Posted by: nesnora at January 7, 2009 10:08 AM

Yikes ! !! ! !

Your subconcious must have taken over here, but no, I

just believe you have too much distraction and your

focusing power needs guidelines. Better luck on your

next project. And I am sure you will have one.


Posted by: Carole - age 61 at February 11, 2009 10:35 PM

Please find below a cut and paste of some recent activity on my fb profile.


"Jobe Axley loves Zefrank's flowers.
February 23 at 11:26pm · Comment · LikeUnlike · Show Feedback (3)Hide Feedback (3)
You like this.

Angela Roller at 9:36pm February 23
Did you learn about Ze Frank from me?? I 've been a fan for years!!

Jobe Axley at 9:39pm February 23
No, but this means we should celebrate our love together by telling strangely awkward stories while bugging out our eyes for the sake of inflection. Or we could just make flowers.

Angela Roller at 12:27am February 24
Ok I'm good at awkward!! First try the kaleidoscope!
Write a comment..."

Posted by: Jobe at March 15, 2009 12:28 PM

loved the chillout and scared songs Frank .Thanx

Posted by: gursharan at November 19, 2009 11:59 PM

This makes me think I want to get together with ten or so close friends and draw lots for each others' facebook identities for two weeks. I think it would be generally ridiculous as well as grow our trust for each other and de-isolate in a profound way .

Posted by: Cimarron Ballantyne at October 22, 2010 2:15 PM

thanks this rocks

Posted by: damionthomas at January 6, 2012 9:45 AM

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