Saturday, July 14, 2012

Artificial Sweeties

Working Title: "Justin and Jeffrey take a romantic trip to Italy, never to be heard from again. A tragedy in too many parts."

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Twitter's most adorable gay couple, and how their interminable sweetness stirred within me a sense of annoyance that was so uncharacteristic of myself, it caused me reflectively analyze my own emotional state of being. At one point I even threw up in my mouth a little. (Happy Gays And Bread Crumbs Always Get Me Down)

That should have raised a red flag right there. Nobody forces me to get in touch with my feelings. Not unless you're a certain Kentucky Colonel and that feeling is "hunger".

I cynically snarked how I predicted this perfect relationship would eventually end badly, probably in court. In reality, the sudden end of the #JustinAndJeff romance played out a bit differently than I expected. (Although it's still too early to rule out the possibility of legal action.) Last Tuesday night, the truth behind @allaboutJust and @whataboutjeff hit the Twitter fan. Blobby called it: it was all a fraud.

The phonies were confronted by Twitter truth detective extraordinaire and fellow Atlantan, @cwebbie, whom I hope to convince to follow me back and :) who, in real life, is friends with the actual gentlemen depicted in "Justin" and "Jeff's" avatars and twitpics. Shortly afterward, both accounts were voluntarily removed.

For some unfathomable reason, someone (or someones?) spent the past year using stolen Facebook photos to fabricate an unfolding relationship between two imaginary young male nurses living in West Hollywood. Close to ten thousand tweets with nearly a thousand followers. Each. It's astonishing, really.

Beside interacting so adorably with each other, both "Justin" and "Jeff" actively engaged their followers to the extent that actual bonds of friendship seemed to be forged. I have no doubt that for many, the relationships developed with these "characters" felt very real, even if they ultimately turned out to be one-sided.

This was reflected in the initial disbelief among so many #JustinAndJeff followers. Some of them rallied vehemently to their defense while lashing out against @cwebbie for leveling her accusation. But confronted with overwhelming evidence, there was nothing left for these followers to do but cycle through their grief stages. Like every Twitter commotion, the crowd quickly processed their emotions and dispersed, moving on to bigger and better things. Like #ReplaceMovieTitleWithCheese.

As for myself, I can't exactly say I was shocked. But I can't climb smugly on my high horse and say "I told you so" either. And not just because I'm afraid of horses.

I fell for this hoax as much as anyone. Yes, I considered the possibility on more than one occasion. I just couldn't believe anyone would be so dedicated to maintaining such an elaborate and consistent fantasy life, much less for two people. Maybe I'm too eager to project my own laziness and lack of sustained focus on others, but I still find the scale of this undertaking hard to get my head around.

And don't get me started theorizing about possible motivation right now. I'm afraid my head might explode.

Keep in mind the logistics involved here. I think I spend too much time on Twitter, yet these characters generated ten times the tweet volume as I typically do. Each. Assuming it's only a single perpetrator, it's hard to imagine him having time for a life of his own. I think Blobby hit the nail on the head with his comment:
"You just know there aren't two guys tweeting - it's one 450lb guy who's been a shut-in since 1987."
Despite the red flags, I accepted that Justin and Jeff were most likely real people. If their only tweets were those supercilious relationship truisms and saccharine declarations of cuddle-bunny love I found so irritating, that would be one thing. But these were just the miniature marshmallows floating in a warm cocoa stream of mundane details of two normal lives together. Work, family, friends, interior decoration. The last I read, they were boarding a flight to Italy for a romantic vacation. It was all very convincing.

No, my feeling was that they existed but, for whatever reason, they were misrepresenting their relationship on Twitter. That maybe by selecting only the best parts, perhaps embellishing others, they were presenting a perfect, idealized version of themselves. Something that Twitter – and the Internet in general – allows us all to do, if that's the route we choose to take.

I suppose I can take satisfaction in learning that the targets of my irrational cynicspasms turned out not to be real people. It opens a window, however slightly, to the possibility I'm not a dick.

But all this rationalization and moralizing is easy after the fact. Too easy. All I can really give myself credit for is pointing out weeks ago that the relationship depicted by Justin and Jeff just didn't feel realistic to me.


  1. Truth be told, I'm finding your posts regarding processing this charade far more entertaining and interesting than any of the tweets that came from those accounts.

  2. Listen, since Andy Griffith's death, someone had to become the new 'Matlock'. I'm just Matlock's trusty sidekick.

  3. Much like Justin and Jeff, I've concluded that at least two blogs I read, and are more personal than most, have fictionalized story lines. The story lines are written as if a part of their life which makes them even more enjoyable but I no longer believe them to be true. I still enjoy the blogs and story lines in question, I just don't believe them to be true.

    I will not be doing any research to support my theory.