The real joy of the Powerball Facebook fake

A man claims to be a Powerball winner and offers $1 million to anyone who shares the picture of him and his ticket. Almost 2 million share it. But it's the messages they leave that show humanity for what it is.

Trick or treat? Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's the weekend.

You'll be thinking about going to a movie, or the theater, or a museum perhaps.

I have an alternative suggestion. Sit down and go to the Facebook page of Nolan Daniels.

Within 24 hours, Daniels (if that is his real name) has become one of the world's more famous people.

He put up a photo of himself with what was supposedly a winning Powerball ticket and offered $1million to a random sharer of his photo.

As I'm writing this, more than 1.7 million people have shared it. You know, on a just-in-case basis.

Which is what makes this a true cultural phenomenon. Before going to your local museum today to view artifacts from an age of stone or military brass, please spend some time going through the comments on Daniels' post.

For there you will see a fairly complete psychological picture of today's interesting world.

First, you might espy the critics. They point out that the ticket is obviously fake, as the numbers aren't in ascending order. Oh, and some suggest that he got the price of the ticket wrong.

The critics are generally people who spend their days knowing what's wrong with the world and doing too little about it. To my unmathematical eye, they seem to make up at least 50 percent of the commenters.

Then you will find the beggars and liars. It is difficult to distinguish the two.

Take this from Anthony Rocco Sedalia: "My Family and I could use a million with getting evicted soon and water and power being turned off that money would HELP A LOt!!!"

Or this from Mittani R. Spruill: "I'm the random person to pick :-) My mom is filming a movie and needs $500,000. And me and my son want to build a school for underprivileged kids. And lastly, i want to invest the rest in my company. Pick me!!"

Are these people telling the truth? Or are they trying to kid a kidder?

Perhaps, though, the most astounding group of people can be bundled under the term "Naive, sweet, innocent, insane, nice folks."

A quite astonishing number of commenters offer Daniels nothing but good wishes.

Some admire his chutzpah in using such a simple ruse in order to become famous. Because they know that fame is the current currency.

Some, though, seem simply to wish him well.

This, for example, from Jenna Sasnett: "Congrats, Hope you have a wonderful life and time with the money and don't become a stuck up rich man. May god bless!"

Or this from Laurie Mannino Vickery: "Congrats to you. You have a heart of gold to give away money to a random person. Like your ticket...You are a rare find."

Yes, Daniels is clearly a rare find -- and for many of these posters, it seems that visiting news sites is a rare phenomenon. Daniels has been debunked as a fake many, many times in the last 24 hours.

But if you just go by the Facebook comments it's still hard to decipher the real from the not-so-real.

Are these people leaving sweet messages merely to be generous? Or do they believe that Daniels will cast his eyes and $1 million worth of sweetness upon the person who, in some way, moves him most?

Do they really generously wish him a happy life? Or do they generously wish him a happy life in the hope that he will show them generosity?

You can decide that Daniels' little prank is nothing more than that.

Or you can decide that this is a very high form of modern art. With one simple picture and caption, he has shown how difficult it is in our supremely connected world to make a connection between what we see and hear and what we can trust.

As many people as decry Daniels for being a fake, so there seem equally many (if not more) fakes attempting to dupe the duper into making their own lives easier.

When the aliens come to Earth to pick over our bones and carcasses, they will surely muse: "What a curious bunch of beings this lot were."

 

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