Wednesday, January 8, 2020

"The strange case of . . . the influencer who came back as a different person

Sarah Manavis for New Statesman:

In 2015, when he joined Musical.ly, the app for sharing lip-syncing videos that was bought by TikTok in 2018, he posted near-daily clips of himself doing jerky dance moves, acting out scenes with his fiancé . . . and flashing his abs. Within 18 months, [his] seemingly mundane videos were regularly drawing half a million views per clip and he became one of the most popular users on the app. By the start of 2017, [he] had gained an audience of just under a million Instagram followers and a whopping seven million on Musical.ly. These followers then transferred to TikTok when it was bought, giving [him] one of the largest followings on the world's fastest-growing social media platform.

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hundreds of users complained that he had not honoured the promises he'd made to secure these gifts . . . . In the midst of the controversy, he disappeared from social media entirely – wiping his Instagram and YouTube channel of all content.

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That was until late last year, when [he] reappeared with a bizarre post that many claim was an attempt to rebrand himself as a new person, Troy Becker: someone with a different age, job, and identity.

On 14 October 2019, [he] posted a side-by-side image of himself (sporting a barely-grown-out beard) next to another image of what appeared to be himself, albeit clean-shaven. “This actor @TroyBeckerIG kid literally looks like a younger sexier version of me,” [he] wrote. “I don’t even use social media anymore but had to post this hahah…”

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[He] was apparently offering to give up public life and hand over an audience of more than eight million followers to a teenage boy who just happened to look exactly like him.

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In any situation, this would be an unusual, and unusually generous thing to do. But for many commentators it was simply unbelievable.