Monday, February 4, 2008

Fictional Characters on Myspace? Lies on Facebook?

So you write a book, and you want to get it in front of Teen Eyeballs.

You create Myspace (or Facebook, etc...) profiles for your main characters. You have these characters interact in this internet-fueled realm, as if they're real Teens.

You have other real teens "friend" them and your fictional characters "friend" real teens.

Is this genius marketing? Or is it lying? Could it be both?


Interestingly, there's even a Myspace group called "The Department of Inanimate Objects and Fictional Characters." (29 members.)

and a "Fictional Characters of Myspace" group as well (this one has 73 members.)

It makes me think of a sort of internet version of COSPLAY, where people dress up as their own fictional characters to role-play, and then interact with each other as those characters. But in that situation, it's kind of like Halloween - everyone knows everyone else is dressed up and pretending/acting.

What's odd about the fictional characters on Myspace, etc... is that often there is no tag on it to tell a real life user that this is a profile of someone fictional...

It kind of reminds me also of that hysterical (possibly apocryphal?) episode of some daytime talk show where they were introducing "blind" dates - people who had met online, and they were going to meet in person for the first time that day. So they introduced the first girl of a lesbian pairing - only to reveal that she was a guy, pretending to be a lesbian. They asked him what he thought the other girl's reaction would be, on finding out he wasn't a lesbian also. Then they brought out the OTHER girl, and everyone was shocked to discover that this was ANOTHER guy, who had also been pretending to be a lesbian!!! (To my mind, these two guys deserved each other!)

Anyway, I admit that creating profiles for your fictional characters is a fascinating way to get Teens interested in your book, but what about the ethical line? Shouldn't there be a responsibility to let everyone KNOW somehow that this profile is a made-up character? Or are Teens all so savvy that they know you can't believe everything (or even most of the things) you read on the internet?

What about the people who lie just about their height, or weight? Is being honest too slippery a slope for us these days? Should we have some way to vet the truth of real people's posts as well?

Or is it all sort of a work of fiction, anyway?


It's a brave new world, and sometimes, it's messy.

What are your thoughts on this? Just join in the conversation by clicking on "comment."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmm. It's definitely a fine line. I can't help but think of that poor girl who got bullied into suicide by the mother of her ex-best friend via a fake account on MySpace some months ago.

At the same time, I like the idea as a marketing vehicle. I guess it's a matter of taking care to make it conspicuously clear on the character's blog that he/she's fictional even though visitors are welcome to interact with the character(s).

I used to be a part of a online historical role-playing community years ago, and we were all required to keep character blogs on the side. I was Lord Byron, and it was fun snarking with the Duke of Wellington.