Unauthorized Facebook Biography: my accidental creative project

by david

Just under two weeks ago, I was thinking about the inevitable decline and death of Facebook, and wondered what would come next. Looking backwards, I thought of MySpace, and Friendster. Specifically, one feature of Friendster. I typed this into Facebook:

One of my favorite internet cultural moments was when Friendster started, and asked us to write “Testimonials” for one another, and many of us earnestly tried to praise each other, unbidden. I’m taking it in the other direction. I’m gonna start posting “Unauthorized Facebook Biographies” on friends’ walls.

Almost as soon as I’d written it, I realized that I did indeed want to do exactly that. And so I just started. That first night, I wrote three. My friend Casey was portrayed as a self-made vole-farmer turned music superstar turned radical rabbi. My friend Amy got billing as “Papa,” the subject of a testimonial by the male half of Amy’s drug-fueled music/crime duo. Lynn was President of the United States, running on a platform of “Stop saying stupid shit to each other, shitdog.” The next day I wrote three more.  I’ve kept writing them. There are now 34 of them. The biographies are inaccurate, occasionally disgusting, rarely flattering, and usually logically inconsistent. They’re very fun to write, and people seem to like getting them.

I don’t plan them in advance. I don’t even plan them a sentence in advance. I just come up with the first few words (“Famed sleep researcher Eileen Lynch is by this point a household name,” “OK, Skeeter, listen up, ’cause I’m gonna tell you the story about the reason this here town is still on the map,” and “Sometimes a royal birth doesn’t guarantee you a goddamn thing,” are three examples – I had no idea where they were going) and go from there. Occasionally, a late development in a biography will drive me back to change a few words early on, but the frequency of my typos should make clear that what is getting posted is not carefully reviewed copy. It’s much closer to a stream of conscious first draft, sometimes inspired by a true detail about the person, but more often entirely fabricated and willfully aiming for a portrait that is counter to their actual characters.

I have no particular goal in mind. I don’t think I’ll write one for every Facebook friend, but you never know. Maybe I’ll post them all together in one place some time. Maybe, if someone I don’t know wants one, I’ll start writing them for hire (maybe paired with a doctored photo of their subject). Maybe maybe maybe.

For now, it’s great to write something that is purely fun, functions almost like a personalized gift, and which other people seem to really like.