The Fakester Genocide and its sequel The Fakester Resurrection (yes I wrote a sequel song) were both inspired by an incident in 2003 when the social gaming website Friendster deleted thousands of fake identities, prompting a rebellion among computer geeks called ‘the fakester revolution’. It’s not much remembered now and Friendster was dissolved last year – if you do an internet search for ‘fakester genocide’ in 2019, most of the results are links to our song – but I did manage to find a description on a website called mxplx.com. Here’s the final section, which makes some astute observations about the way people behave on social media in general. It’s equally applicable to Facebook.
‘Although Fakesters had taken on a collective impression of resistance, their primary political stance concerned authenticity. In discussing Fakesters, Batty was quick to point out that there’s no such thing as an authentic performance on Friendster—“None of this is real.” Through the act of articulation and writing oneself into being, all participants are engaged in performance intended to be interpreted and convey particular impressions. While some people believed that “truth” could be perceived through photorealistic imagery and a list of tastes that reflected one’s collections, the Fakesters were invested in using more impressionistic strokes to paint their portraits. If we acknowledge that all profiles are performative, permitting users to give off a particular view of themselves, why should we judge Fakesters as more or less authentic than awkwardly performed profiles?
Being me, I wrote a sad song about it. The premise of The Fakester Genocide (from Swimmer One’s first album) was that one of these fakesters has genuinely fallen in love with someone else who has also assumed a fake identity. When his soul mate’s online profile is deleted without warning, he is bereft. How will he ever find her again, when she could be anyone, anywhere in the world (and might not even be a she)? The answer, the song ultimately suggests, is that since she only exists in his imagination, he can find her again in his imagination, ‘in the unsaid words in sentences, in the spaces between strangers on trains’, which is all very poetic but perhaps not very practical. Although, philosophically speaking, do the people we love truly exist outside of our imaginations anyway? I suspect this song was also influenced by my love of the film Solaris (both the 1972 original and the 2002 remake), in which an alien species unwittingly tortures a grieving husband by repeatedly creating physical manifestations of his dead wife; since all they have to go on is his memories of her, they end up creating a kind of monstrous distortion of her, based on his feelings of guilt, regret and sadness. It’s a great movie.
The Fakester Resurrection (from Swimmer One’s second album) expands on this theme. The fakester is now living inside Second Life, a virtual world that people from across the world can explore as avatars. Like the characters in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, he has gone there to escape the real world, which for various reasons (pollution, climate change, loneliness, too much responsibility) is less appealing.
The Fakester Resurrection was one of Swimmer One’s most ambitious songs, musically and lyrically – it was 12 minutes long, and split into four different sections, an idea that (for my part, at least) was very much inspired by Jane Siberry’s equally epic The Bird in the Gravel, which has a similar structure, as well as multiple perspectives and characters (if you’ve never listened to The Bird in the Gravel, you must; it’s amazing). Jane Siberry also wrote sequels, incidentally – a series of songs on separate albums, all very different but all called Map of the World. So I stole that idea too.
If we’d been more successful, I’d have loved to do The Fakester Resurrection live with a full band and orchestra. We did, at least, get to perform an imaginary version of that, at a spoken word night in Glasgow called Words Per Minute and then at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I sang along to a backing track while Laura held up a series of placards describing what was happening in our imagined big budget production of the song – ballet dancers, the Scottish Opera Chorus, bonkers ideas like the Statue of Liberty emerging from a pit of sand. It was a lot of fun, and I love that I can say that my band did a gig at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.