Santiago Swallow may be one of the most famous people no one has heard of.
His eyes fume from his Twitter profile: he is Hollywood-handsome with high cheekbones and dirty blond, collar-length hair. Next to his name is one of social media’s most prized possessions, Twitter’s blue “verified account” checkmark. Beneath it are numbers to make many in the online world jealous: Santiago Swallow has tens of thousands of followers. The tweets Swallow sends them are cryptic nuggets of wisdom that unroll like scrolls from digital fortune cookies: “Before you lose weight, find hope,” says one. Another: “To write is to live endlessly.”
Swallow is a pure product of the Internet: a “speaker and thinker,” who specializes in “re-imagining self in the online age,” an apparent star of the prestigious TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, and a hit at Austin’s annual art, technology and music event, South By South West (SXSW). His Wikipedia biography explains why: Swallow is “a Mexican-born, American motivational speaker, consultant, educator, and author, whose speeches and publications focus on understanding modern culture in the age of social networking, globally interconnected media, user generated content and the Internet,” who has “dedicated himself to helping others know more about how media and personality can be manipulated in the 21st Century.” Famous for its “neutral point of view,” Wikipedia also reports that Swallow’s opinions are controversial in some quarters, especially his prediction that “the disassociation of self would lead to a revision of the standard definition of Multiple Personality Disorder to include selves that only manifest in the online world.” He can be expected to take up this argument in his book, Self: Imaginary Identities in the Age of The Internet, due out later this year, something that his Wikipedia biography, his official web site (santiagoswallow.com) and his Twitter feed all confirm.
There’s just one thing about Santiago Swallow that you won’t easily find online: I made him up. Everything above is true. He really does have a Twitter feed with tens of thousands of followers, he really does have a Wikipedia biography, and he really does have an official web site. But he has never been to TED or South By South West and is not writing a book. I—or rather he—flat out lied about that.
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