Excerpt from Dave Cicirelli’s ‘Fakebook: A True Story. Based on Actual Lies’
We’re happy to share an excerpt from Dave Cicirelli’s amusing new memoir, Fakebook: A True Story. Based on Actual Lies. For six months, the 27-year-old used Photoshop to fictionalize his Facebook profile, to see exactly how much people would believe. He announced that he was quitting his job and walking across the country, posting pictures from his wild adventure along the way—from forbidden love in Amish country to doomsday cults in the Arizona desert. It was intentionally unbelievable—and yet it went viral, gaining thousands of followers…and even inspiring others to quit their jobs too. Read on for a peek into how Dave came up with the idea for this prank in the first place.
Sandy Hook is an odd little sandbar that juts ten miles off the northernmost tip of the Jersey Shore, pointing toward the Manhattan skyline. Its National Park status makes it home to a lot of little curiosities—things like decommissioned World War II Naval Barracks, a marine biology focused high school, and a disappointing stretch of nude beach (I once saw an octogenarian there wearing nothing but a knee brace). Compared to the more commercially developed beach towns to the south, it’s a truly unique place.
I sat on the beach there, facing the pink and orange sunset, completely satisfied with that morning’s snap decision to spend the Labor Day weekend at my parents. I was totally decompressed, like I’d hit a reset button on all the stresses life in New York City can bring—with the only reminder being my new, e-mail enabled iPhone.
Part communicator, part toy, and part office leash, the iPhone had a strange hold on me, and had quickly become my go-to distraction during any moment of downtime, whether I was waiting for the ATM or waiting for the sun to go down.
So as nature put on a brilliant performance in the vast vista in front of me, my eyes still wandered towards the five-inch screen. I opened Facebook.
Ted Kaiser In Red Bank. At the Dub.
It had been a while since I’d seen Ted—six months, maybe. He was a good guy, if not a little predictable. He liked watching sports and bullshitting, not a whole lot else. But I hadn’t left Manhattan to find adventure, and the prospect of catching up with a friend was an appealing one.
I drove along Navasink River Road, treating myself to an evening glimpse of the riverside mansions I’d spent my high school summers landscaping, and soon crossed the bridge into Red Bank. It’s old, pretty, down town is lined with 19th century three-story brick buildings and lit with wrought iron fixtures. It’s easy to imagine horse drawn carriages going up and down the streets over a century ago.
I parked my parent’s Saturn between a sports car and a pick-up truck and cut through the back entrance to the Dublin House. Passing through the main bar, I took a quick look in the adjacent living room, with its leather chairs circled around a big fireplace. I walked past the main staircase, then out the front door, and was instantly reminded why I liked coming here. Manhattan has almost every kind of bar, but it doesn’t have a bar in a house.
I saw Ted sitting with Steve at a table on the brick patio.
“Cicirelli. I didn’t know you were around,” Steve said as he signaled for another beer. “Still in the city, doing the art thing?”
Steve Cucciniello was usually part of the group I saw when I was in town—our nearly identical last names gave us a half-decade of homeroom together.
“Yeah, still there doing the art thing…sort of, I guess. I’m doing promotional marketing, like press kits and stuff—client work.” I instinctively reached for my phone and its inbox before I caught myself. “I don’t really want to think about work right now, though. I’m in town to take it easy.”
“You know,” Ted said, “my Dad used to say September was his favorite month. I never understood it, but now I get it.”
I nodded. “It used to have this stigma of school starting—but now it’s just really nice weather. The shore trash goes home, and it’s just locals.”
“Locals? Hey BENNY, go home!” Steve shouted, referencing the (BE)regen County, (N)ewark, and (NY) residents who spend their summer weekends “down the shore,” supporting our local economy and ruining our reputation.
“Hey man, don’t lump me in with those Staten Italians! I’m grandfathered in, and I really do miss it sometimes…though sometimes I think I just miss going to the beach and having my mom cook me dinner. I think I just want summer vacation.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” Ted said.
“You are on summer vacation, Ted,” I retort.
Ted had started an import/export business out of his house. He spent his days…setting his fantasy lineups? No one understood what he did, so we just insisted he didn’t do anything.
“I have a real job!” Ted protested. He probably did, but in our defense, it had been a long time since we’d seen him answer his door in anything other than mesh basketball shorts.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I accidentally looked at my phone—it had become a habit even during conversation. There was only an email about routine building maintenance, but it was enough to return some of that anxiety I’d shed by the ocean. “You know what I do miss? I miss the lack of responsibility, I miss being immature.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asked.
“Like…remember when Chris Wasco sold his prayers on Ebay?”
“Yeah, of course.” Ted answered. “That was classic.”
“Nothing was better though,” Steve interjected, “than the time the track team took John Randell’s Christmas display and decorated the front of the high school with it.”
“Exactly!” I said, leaning forward. “I miss that. I miss being able to do something dumb and irreverent, just because it’s funny. That kind of ‘what the hell’ attitude we used to have. Everyone’s so cautious now—everything has stakes.”
Steve raised his eyebrows knowingly and asked, “Looking to pick another fight with the Amish?”
I had a respectable track record of unorthodox mischief, going all the way back to an underground comic book art business I’d operated out of the stairwells of River Plaza Elementary school, which was ultimately shut down by the infamous Safety Patrol sting operation of ’94. But the weird high school feud I’d started with a menacing Amish webmaster was my signature piece. As a high school junior, I’d discovered a handful of Amish webpages. Struck by the brazen hypocrisy and absurdity of the concept, I started an email feud with an Amish webmaster. Suffice it to say, things got heated, and the whole episode had captured the imagination of my classmates for months. I found myself at the center of at least a dozen Amish themed pranks.
“Ha! I don’t know…maybe? I haven’t been as proud of a project as that high school one in a long time.”
“Speaking of, can you believe I have to start planning our ten-year reunion soon?” Ted interjected.
“Who cares about High School reunions?” Steve replied. “I have Facebook, I already know how fat and bald everyone got. The only reason I log in is to see how I’m doing. ‘Beating you, beating you, beating you…huh, Johnny-from-third-grade-soccer-camp has a really hot wife and a sweet car? You’re blocked!”
“Yikes. Guess I better start getting ready,” I said with a laugh. “I mean, Steve raises a good point—I really want to win this reunion.”
“You better get on the ball. Designing press kits for fabric softeners doesn’t exactly stack up to John McLaughlin practicing international law in Brussels with some hot Belgian chick and a Mercedes SLS.”
“McLaughlin? He seemed like the kind of guy who’d need a lawyer before being one.”
“I guess he switched sides of the bench.” Steve joked.
“Well, I could always cheat,” I said. “I mean, I’ve got Photoshop—I can post just about anything on Facebook. A hotter wife, a better car…It’s like plugging into the Matrix!”
We all laughed and exchanged glances, suddenly excited by a shared epiphany—this joke on Facebook could possibly work! There’s no reason my Facebook friends wouldn’t believe it. After all, what exactly are Facebook Friends? I may know lots of minutia about their day—but what did I really know about them as people? I mean, I know from Facebook that Debbie from 5th grade just sold her fake cows on Farmville. If I then found out that Farmville Debbie had murdered someone, I’d be shocked…but I’d believe it. For all of Facebook’s transparency, it’s still pretty opaque. We know only what people care to share. So what was to stop me from sharing complete nonsense?
Without skipping a beat, Ted, Steve and I began the gleeful work of creating as many premises for my ‘Fakebook’ life as possible.
I could join Cirque Du Soleil. I could become a Tony Robbins style self-help guru, offering terrible, unsolicited advice to the fringes of my Facebook friend base. I could win the lottery and pull increasingly eccentric stunts with my newfound cash, culminating in a Somali pirate hostage situation. I could be a royal food tester, a professional wrestler, the first male Rockette—I had lived a hundred faux lives by the end of the conversation.
But as the long weekend ended and real life resumed, not only did the idea stay with me, it blossomed. Watching a baseball game made me want to fake a life as the guy in the Mr. Met costume. A full moon made me want to pretend to be bit by a werewolf. And on and on it went as I found myself filling my sketchbook with every funny premise that crossed my mind. I was completely inspired—and ensnared. I was viewing the world through the lens of the countless lives I could pretend to live.
If only I were still sixteen, I thought, I might actually do this.
Dave Cicirelli is a New York York–based writer and art director with extensive experience serving iconic consumer and entertainment brands across all print, digital, and experiential mediumsmedia. His work has won a number of awards, including a Silver Anvil and honors from HOW Magazine, GDUSA, and Creativity 38. In the eight years he’s been in the marketing industry, he’s witnessed the impact social media has had on how brands talk to consumers. In the sixteen years since he got an AOL screen name, he’s witnessed the impact social media has had on how people talk to one another.
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