The Sad World of Adults Pretending to Be Kids for Retweets
It's weird and creepy and it needs to stop.
Can you imagine taking a few hours out of your day to sit down with a crayon and forge a child's exam paper? Or trying to convince thousands of people that one of your kids picked up a bra and dropped a witty quip about it being a "booby trap"? If the answer is "yes", then you might not be as weird as you think. You might just be one of the legions of "Twitter comedians" who present clearly fabricated child-related anecdotes as things that really, definitely happened, purely to pick up brownie points from strangers on the internet.
That's right: adults lying about stuff kids said is the new animals doing funny faces on the internet. After all, what are kids but animals with slightly better communication skills?
In terms of the trend's Twitter popularity, it's not yet up there with people arguing about David Moyes or RTing "Brazil smiles when Niall Horan smiles". But these types of fake tweet are slowly colonising the platform and the multitude of viral websites that feed off of it. It's a phenomenon that is clearly bullshit; bad jokes told like news stories, fallen for and spread by idiots. A bit like crop circles.
The formula is simple: think of a phonetic mistake that's vaguely amusing but that a child is unlikely to have made in real life – getting "the Smurfs" mixed up with "The Smiths", for example. In an ideal world, this phonetic mistake will hint at some higher truth about humanity; the more sentimental, the more chance your fake tweet has of being picked up by UpWorthy and shunted around the internet by mums who just got Facebook. Attribute this quote to your unknowing children, post it on Twitter and hope it goes down as well as this one did with all the twee people on there who spend their time making jokes about badgers and biscuits:
Like most twee things, it's difficult to figure out quite why it's so annoying. It's not that it harms the world in any specific, grievous way. There are certainly far more worrying things to stress about and it's not like I make a habit of playing Twitter cop. There are many other types of lie on Twitter that I don't understand but that I don't give a second thought to. There's just something about this trend and its flagrant attention seeking – not to mention its cynical use of kids as props for added "ahhhh" factor – that really grates on me. If you're being highfalutin, it's a weird and sad nadir in the continued internet-driven devolution that's turning fully-grown adults into infants. If I'm saying it straight, I just wish irritating people would stop trying to con me.
As with the majority of modern injustices, the trend now has its very own whistle-blower. Step forward @FaaakeTweets, a kind of vigilante social media manager account run by a shadowy Snowden-type figure intent on calling bullshit on the cutesy stories and anecdotes knocked up by these Sarah Millican-loving fraudsters. The account operates in quite a simple way; it just links to said tweets, @s the offender and then shouts "FAKE" or "DIDN'T HAPPEN" or "THEY DIDN'T", and watches them get enraged and defensive about it.
A guy known as Mr Nick Harvey is probably the Picasso of the form, an old master who shuffled off his online coil on Tuesday because Fake Tweets' flagged his tweets a few times. I'm sure Nick's a thoroughly decent bloke, someone who loves his family, works hard and doesn't shirk a round when it's his turn at the bar. But his assertion that he was forced off Twitter by "trolls" looks pretty over-egged when you realise that Stan Collymore will still be live-tweeting League 1 goal updates this weekend despite having been bombarded for years with disgusting racial slurs and death threats:
You don't have to be a moron to fall for one of these fake tweets. When seen at third or fourth hand, perhaps on a website with an editorial team, it's easy to see how the lines can get blurred. You think: 'That must be true, surely? Not that many people could have fallen for it.' It just becomes an amusing story that you can't be arsed to research, like anything published at the Sunday Sport website. There's no crime in that, but I still can't help but wonder about the people who go out of their way to create these things.
A few of them also have a horrible classist streak to them – the one above being a perfect example. It's as if Ed Brody believes he's some kind of reporter dispatching from the ignorant coalface of our culture. Venturing out into the sheer hell of Balham Sainsbury's to let his Sherlock-loving chums on Twitter know what the povvos have been getting confused about today.
First of all, nobody would ever get those two very different pronunciations of "Sharon" mixed up. It's a joke that only works visually. And the idea that someone would really be able to hear that much of somebody's conversation in a supermarket without them moving on is kinda bullshit, too. In fact, it's shitty on every level.
Fake tweets come in many different shapes and styles of fake, but by far the most prominent seem to be conversations that the tweeters claim to have had with their own children. Looking after a young kid must be pretty arduous and alienating at times, so you can understand why things like Mumsnet and gin exist. But these tweets seem to be concocted in the vain hope of being favourited by some fifth-rate blazer 'n' T-shirt wearing comedian who guest-starred in one episode of Rev and has gained 2,500 followers as a result.
I think these are some of the most heinous examples. Not just because of the horrible tone or twee vocab, or because they're faker than a Shepherd's Bush market Barcelona shirt, but because of the awful cultural shoehorning going on. Even when the parents try to pretend they know anything about their kids, they think they watch the Smurfs. What year are these people living in? The tweets are designed purely to make sense to other people on Twitter who are of the same age and demographic as the writer themselves.
Then you've got this weird propensity for using words like "poo". Mr Nick Harvey clearly never had this conversation. Nobody talks like that. It's basically ripped straight out of Outnumbered. So why does he do it?
Sometimes the parents go a step further, putting pen to paper and paper to scanner in order to capitalise on the inherent naivety of children. Actually going and faking a child's handwriting and signature is probably worse, and IDK, illegal perhaps? I'm not that well versed in the laws of these things, but I'm pretty sure if you did that to an adult you'd be in trouble. Though, of course, there is the handy get-out-clause that these kids might not even exist anyway.
It's easy to make fun of these falsified conversations and scribblings for being lame and twee...
...but the really important question is why? Why the hell do they do it? Why do they fake letters and words from their own children, like desperate kidnappers? Who thinks that's a productive use of time?
Well, people do a lot of strange things for attention on the internet. They start celebrity blogs where they scrawl wild MS Paint accusations, they make sub-Tim Minchin (and that is pretty fucking "sub") topical comedy piano songs, they sell their virginities, they make squeaky voiced video blogs, they start Will Ferrell parody accounts.
Essentially, the internet is a big room full of wankers making a lot of noise, and maybe the realities of your own life just aren't quite noisy enough to get that mass attention. When the nature of the game is standing out from the crowd, all sorts of madness and skulduggery starts to go on. Harry Styles can tweet about the things that actually happen to him and people pay attention. He can get 171,000 RTs just for saying something about eating toast in the shower. For the vast majority of us, this sadly isn't the case.
At the end of the day, it's nothing to get upset about. It's nothing worth going to The Hague for. It's not the worst thing that's ever happened to the world; it's just really, really annoying. So for that, we must thank Fake Tweets, who are truly doing God's work until these kids can grow into teenagers, do a little genealogical soul-searching and confront their parents one night over dinner.
"Er, Dad? Why did you tell some strangers on the internet once that I got the words 'radio' and 'rodeo' mixed up?"
Then, and only then, will the sheer weirdness of their actions begin to haunt them.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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