Earlier this week lots of people laughed when Mark Davidson’s Twitter appeared to be hacked by a scorned ghostwriter. "And yes, as @markdavidson's former ghostwriter of 4 years; I am drunk. Drunk and angry. (You should have changed your password!)," was one of the messages that soon was touted around the web as an epic example of a fired employee exacting revenge on his boss. All Twitter's Shea Bennett, who first noticed the tweets, painted it as a cautionary tale. TechCrunch's Robin Wauters called it all "just too funny not to share." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow said the incident added up to "damning accusations about Mr Davidson's social media competence." But then, after Davidson's account updated with jokes about the supposed hijacking, it started to look like a stunt, and some even wondered if Mark Davidson was a real person. "This could be the most elaborate Internet hoax of all time," wrote Brian Whalley, the creator of IsMarkDavidsonReal.com. Well, we found Davidson. He is real, but the incident is not. He made the whole thing up. To please his Jewish mother.
“I don’t need to hire ghostwriters, I am a ghostwriter,” he told The Atlantic Wire. Davidson agreed to tell me the full story--and not one of the many other reporters who had reached out to him--because, as "one of the tribe" I would understand the issue at hand. He said he came up with the idea after a chat with his mom in which she nagged him for not being a real social media expert like Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. "She tells me why can't you be like them? While your brother's a doctor, you’re doing social media. That’s how the conversation evolved... So that was part of the catalyst for motivation," explained Davidson. "I have a total Jewish mother, right?"
After that, he set out to prove a point: Mark Davidson is a social media aficionado. "When I do get on [Twitter], I’m able to get a conversation that’s interesting and entertaining." And to a point, that's what he did. After just eight tweets he got the Internet world--including us--talking about Davidson's social media-ing. He claims that this wasn't a bid for attention (which it basically is) or a viral marketing campaign. "I’m not promoting anything," he said. "I’m not trying to dupe people. What I did try to do was spark a conversation, as I always do. As I've done for the last four years."
He added, "I kind of wanted to teach a lesson." But, not for his mom.... for journalists. Twitter is not a news source, argues Davidson, and he thought the bloggers who picked up his story (that would include us) were too gullible. "Don’t believe everything you read," Davidson said. "Reading all these different blog posts, they build a fictional story around my fictional story and some of these are very well known blogs. Ultimately the real story is don’t believe what you read. For all the talk about authenticity and transparency, bloggers are missing the whole checks and balances."
Yet, he admits he didn't expect this type of widespread reaction. He couldn't have anticipated that anyone would pick up the story and write the types of posts they did. Davidson indeed proved he can get a conversation going on and about Twitter. A kind of interesting one about social media transparency. He might have even taught bloggers a bit about journalism. But did the stunt really work? That is: What does his mom think? Mark Davidson did not say.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.