Every day, one or two of the craftier PR people manage to sneak through my defenses and get a pitch into my active inbox, for all the good it’ll do. Got one last week from a publicist pitching a book by a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist I’d never heard of. Of course, the book was supposedly a bestseller. Uh huh. The red flags went up.
Don’t ask me why, but I did a little research (OK, I was bored) and, after all of 20 minutes, figured out that the book was not a bestseller (surprise) and the author is actually a serial liar about companies he never founded and degrees he never obtained. He also exaggerates what he has accomplished, which I guess is par for the course.
I’m not going to name him, because he doesn’t deserve the plug. But here’s the thing: The guy has actually done some good stuff with his life. He’s certainly no venture capitalist and I wouldn’t call him a serial entrepreneur, but he is a small-time investor who has created a product or two in his time. I’m not sure how he’ll do over the long haul, but he has potential.
The question is, why lie? Why make stuff up? Because the internet makes it so ridiculously easy. For a growing number of wantrepreneurs, it’s not so much a question of why lie about your accomplishments, but why not? That’s sort of the culture we live in.
Luckily, I have a built-in BS detector, courtesy of growing up on the streets of Brooklyn and, well, just being around long enough, I guess. It’s gotten to the point where I can tell a fake in two seconds. The problem is, they’re everywhere. They blog, podcast and self-publish. They interview and write about each other. They’re all over social media. Like virtual roaches, the online world is crawling with them.
The Web is the perfect platform for self-centered narcissists to get attention and unethical opportunists to make a buck or two. Maybe it’s ironic, but those are the folks who don’t have much of anything else going on, so they make an effort and, next thing you know, they’re in your inbox or Google search results.
We used to say that the internet levels the playing field. It sure does. It enables nobodies to appear to be somebodies. It enables anyone who wants to be special to look the part. It enables the creation of personal brands that bear little resemblance to the real person beneath the virtual persona.
What I never counted on is that you can actually make it that way. I’ve always said that “fake it ‘til you make it” can’t work. I was admittedly wrong about that. It can work. But here’s the thing. Those who fake it ’til they make it are still fakes. I know it. And more important, they know it.