Why it was time to kill off Fake Stephen Conroy
My name is Leslie Nassar, you may remember me from the side-splitting online satire of Fake Stephen Conroy, Today Tonight, and iSnack 2.0. Ah, The Internet, where even the most obvious and mediocre of writers can become a Celebretard.
I’ve been asked to write about the Harold Holtification of Fake Stephen Conroy. I only have a few hundred words to play with and every article that references Twitter must, by law, contain an excruciatingly detailed history of the author’s use of the service, so let’s not dilly-dally.
When Twitter launched in 2007, I joined the microblogging site thinking I could sate my hunger for telling complete strangers (most of them foreign) about my favourite sandwiches. Disappointingly, it turned out that people were more interested in discussing politics than listening to my opinion on multigrain sourdough breads (I am opposed to them, naturally). So I deleted my account in disgust.
Shortly after, I left my low-paid job working for the public good at the ABC, for a great big sack of money at Telstra where I wrote PowerPoint presentations.
While at Telstra, Twitter began picking up momentum. Now, I love a good bandwagon, so I re-joined. I’d learned my lesson from last time, so I decided to try out the conversation thing. It turns out I’m kind of a dick, so those conversations inevitably devolved to snarking at slacktivism; e-petitions and multi-coloured avatars to support I-don’t-know-what… Iranian-Moldavian whales, maybe?
The point is, a friend of mine noticed that I was pretty good at taking a stick to the #nocleanfeed folks—the guys e-protesting Stephen Conroy’s plans to filter the internet—and asked if I was interested in taking over the long-neglected @stephenconroy Twitter account. I said yes. That was in January.
My Fake Stephen Conroy started off as kind of a buffoon, which was funny enough. He was convinced that those opposed to it were child-raping troglodytes (and thus was half-right most of the time). He’d talk about the joys of a filtered life, and share the horrible memories of Googling for DP instead of DPI.
The folks on Twitter got a kick out of Fake Stephen Conroy, and the follower numbers spiked. Then in March, when my identity was revealed; Telstra flipped out, threw me under a bus, and I very publicly told the Telstra PR guys (and my boss) to f… themselves.
After that, Fake Stephen Conroy got a lot less interesting. Now there was a face behind the mask, and the face had a voice. My voice mixed with Fake Stephen Conroy’s and it became an unholy, unmanageable mess. Over the next few months, there were fewer and fewer postings from Fake Stephen Conroy and more from Leslie Nassar.
It was time to reboot.
Since I was given the account, I thought I should pass it on to someone, else rather than allow it to decay further under my stewardship. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to give it to. Then I thought I’d give it to the Real Stephen Conroy; he’d been a good sport throughout the whole thing, it seemed appropriate that he should get his name back. I sent an email and never heard back.
Now, I could have left the account active and just not updated it. But there is enough abandoned crap on the internet. Fake Stephen Conroy, like Today Tonight and iSnack 2.0, was fun (and, I hope, funny) for a very specific moment in time. Not everything needs to be tagged, frozen, and stored for all eternity.
So I deleted the account. In a couple of months time, Twitter will make the name available for use, and if someone chooses, they can resurrect the Senator.
So, what did I learn?
I learned that Egon Spengler was right; don’t cross the streams. If you mix your personal and professional, or personal and satirical voices online, nothing good comes from it. It destroys the mystique and leads to very unflattering photos of you being published in the newspapers and on the internet. Case in point; the Today Tonight and iSnack 2.0 parodies were kept pure. I stayed on message, didn’t pollute the Tweet stream with Leslie Nassar’s crap, and was rewarded by high follower counts and great feedback.
Fake Stephen Conroy had a lot of followers, but what made him unique was that almost all of them were human and active. When you see super-high follower counts on Twitter, a great many of them are either spammers or abandoned accounts. Fake Stephen Conroy’s followers sent a lot of messages, and I had the privilege of meeting a lot of them in real life at pubs and conferences. They were all very pleasant, and I do not wish for any of them to die in a fire.
So that’s that. Fake Stephen Conroy is (mostly *) dead. Will I do it all again? Oh, yes. But first, I have to find a new job.
* I resurrected him briefly (as Dead Stephen Conroy, Politizombie) to archive the Tweets.
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