Most of us accept that much of what we read, watch or see online is untrue. It’s generally understood that these deceptions are fundamentally “bad”—morally wrong, politically manipulative and/or personally harmful. Yet in Fake Accounts, a young woman who is well aware that deception is bad nevertheless seems to thrive on it.
The premise of Fake Accounts is that the narrator snoops on her boyfriend Felix’s phone and learns that he’s a popular anonymous conspiracy theorist, but he’s actually the least interesting part of the story. Emboldened by Felix’s online fakery, the narrator decides that she, too, will create a fake life for herself. She moves to Berlin and lies about her identity to her roommate, her employer and a rotation of OkCupid dates. And in the grand tradition of unreliable narrators, the reader must wonder if the narrator is lying to us as well.
Plenty of fiction and nonfiction explores how performance of the self on social media can be detrimental to our lives. Fake Accounts raises the bar on this theme, prompting the question of how much distance a person can really put between oneself and an online persona. The narrator believes she is not motivated by nefarious means. She’s not a con artist; she seems to have nothing to gain except her own amusement. What she tells herself is that her fakery is an experiment in self-presentation.
Contrary to the widely accepted belief that the internet brings people together, first-time novelist Lauren Oyler homes in on the alienation that arises when we mediate our presentations of ourselves through technology. Can relationships based on lies foster genuine connection? Is “genuine connection” even the goal anymore in the 21st-century attention economy? The answers you arrive at while reading the wild literary ride that is Fake Accounts may make you uncomfortable.