Fact, Fiction, or Facebook?

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Like Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” And in my case, the multitudes are on Facebook.

I have eight different profiles to my name—or rather, not to my name. The characters in my harem—born of inside jokes, fictional stories, collaborative projects, and, of course, procrastination—are each their own unique and special flower, complete with birthdays, profile pictures, likes, friends, rhetorical tics, and, of course, Gmail addresses.

There’s Harry F.,* a lecherous amateur handyman from Traverse City who likes to make jokes about his “tool.” There’s Valerie T, Harry’s spacey second cousin. There’s Ellen P., a kind of bizarro-world version of my mother—always quick to “like” my posts, bursting with positive comments.

And those are just the humans. There’s also a star-nosed mole who shares my ex-girlfriend’s birthday; a guinea pig wearing a clown nose; a tiny plastic tyrannosaurus who constantly complains that his arms are too short.

All this is to say that I didn’t think twice when I instructed the students in my fiction writing workshop to create Facebook profiles for the protagonists of their stories. If it worked for me, why wouldn’t it work for them? The goal of the assignment, I explained, was to get to know these characters from the inside out—to explore not only what they’d say but how they’d say it, and to whom; to imagine not only what they looked like but what profile pictures they’d choose.

I was so optimistic, in fact, that I had all 18 students create their fake profiles at once.

During class.

From the same IP address.

That was my second mistake.

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