You Don’t Need to Be Real to Be Popular
About a month ago a motorcycle-loving Japanese woman with 27,800 followers on Twitter revealed that he was actually a 50-year old Japanese man who had been using a photo app to make his face look like a young woman.
According to the BBC, the man (named Soya) did this because, “No one will read what a normal middle-aged man, taking care of his motorcycle and taking pictures outside, posts on his account.” By editing his pictures to look like a young, attractive woman, he was far more popular on Twitter. “I get as many as 1,000 likes now, though it was usually below 10 before,” Soya continued in his segment on the TV program Getsuyou Kara Yofukashi (Sitting Up Late From Monday).
While that’s strange to start, the weirdness only continues. Even after eagle-eyed fans unmasked the motorcyclist after spotting an unedited reflection in a selfie, Soya is still editing his photos. And people are still talking to his alter ego as though she’s real.
We say we want authenticity, but what we want is a convincing fraud
In my younger days of trying to be a Cool Girl, I found that I got a lot more male attention when I guzzled beer, pretended to like soccer, and feigned an interest in video games. I can only assume Soya experienced the same to be true for his Twitter account.
If you speak to any social media expert, one of the first things you’ll hear is the importance of authenticity. “Be yourself,” I’ve read on hundreds of digital marketing blogs. “Share the highs and the lows. Your audience wants to know the real you.”
But the truth is far more insidious — people just want the attractive image of authenticity. Just like I was more socially valued in my younger days when I pretended to be (authentically) interested in cheap lager, watching soccer, and playing Call of Duty, and just like Soya found that his deeply inauthentic persona gained a lot more popularity than his actual self, social media followers don’t seem to particularly care if you’re real, fake, or edited. As long as your front is convincing, you’ll find the engagement you want.