i’m panel of experts famous!

31 08 2011

everyone, i’d like you to meet bettysue higgins. this spring, a friend forwarded me this article from the kennebec journal. nothing too fancy, just your garden variety article about a 54 year old secretary embezzling $166,000 from the maine trial lawyers fund. you know, the usual.

over the forthcoming weeks, more and more information would come to light regarding bettysue’s “situation”. normally, i wouldn’t  bother paying too much attention to this kind of small town scandal. but as the details regarding the case began to trickle out, things got more and more bizarre. apparently, this was not bettysue’s first foray into embezzlement, having previously hijacked funds from a both a middle school hot lunch program AND a local little league.

but that’s just the back story. here’s where things got really weird: turns out, bettysue higgins was stealing all this money so that she could level up her character in an online game called yoville (from the same jerks that have infected your facebook stream with farmville invites). bettysue may have been living in a distressed property in the middle of a foreclosure, but in yoville, she was a queen (her character’s name was actually QUEENIE. no jokes). in addition to her queening duties, she was also an active member of the YOVILLE BUSINESS LEADERS ASSOCIATION. yes folks, that is something that actually exists.

and not only does the yoville business leaders association exist, but select members were interviewed by the KJ, eliciting such heartbreaking quotes as:

“…a nice place where you can meet people from all over the world and not have to leave your house.”

“you think you really know somebody or trust them after that long. the stuff this woman has told me and the betrayal that happened after i found out what was going on was really hard for me.”

“it’s hard for me to log on this game and turn on my list,” smith said. “i just don’t trust anybody.”

as i was reading these increasingly pitiful statements, it struck me:  OMG. INTERNET PEOPLE ARE REAL PEOPLE TOO.

and here’s where i cut to the chase. (because right now, you’re probably pretty confused about what the F this has to do with anything)

see, there’s this annual social media conference at USM (aptly called social media FTW), and i really wanted to speak at it.  except that when it was time to apply, i didn’t have a topic to pitch… but then, bettysue came into my life,  and *BAM* there it was.

basically, i think that new users tend to get so overwhelmed by the technical aspects of all the various social tools, that their reason for using them gets lost in the shuffle. the lesson that we learn from following the wake of yoville betrayal and sadness trailing behind bettysue higgins, is that all those icons in your twitter streams and on your facebook walls are really just people (people with feelings, people with needs, people with anger issues…), who require the same attention & respect as the meat suit people who walk into our lives every day.  i wanted to have the opportunity to tell a room full of terrified business owners who feel as if they’re being forced to facebook at gunpoint (FOR THE GOOD OF THE BUSINESS!) not to panic, and remind them that  they already have all the tools (listening, responding, sharing, understanding, telling bad jokes…) that they need to deal with people. they just need to take some simple steps to apply those tools to their social media campaigns.

as you have likely guessed by the fact that i have bothered to carry on this long about it… they did in fact buy what i was selling.  so, on september 22nd, i will be up there on a panel of awesome local experts, pretending i know stuff about stuff (SPOILER: i actually know stuff about stuff). it’s my first time, and as you can imagine, i am both totally excited and COMPLETELY TERRIFIED.

apologies to anyone who is thinking “i didn’t come to this blog for social media bullshit.”  but, as a speaker, it is my duty to pimp the conference a bit. also, i wouldn’t want to speak at it if i didn’t think it was a kick ass event. it is a bit on the pricey side (as most worthwhile conferences are- i’m looking at you TED), but there’s a great student rate, and you can also get $25 off if you use the discount code alexandramunierFTW (my own coupon code! i have arrived!). p.s. this is the kind of stuff that workplaces LOVE for their employees to attend. possibly you should convince your boss that you need to go (on the company dime of course), and then i’ll have someone to sit with at lunch.

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19 responses

31 08 2011
Cindy

Meat suit people. *snort*

Congrats on the speaking engagement. And, bee tee dubs – I am hurt that you didn’t think I was real until now.

9 09 2011
bessmarvin

oh cindy, you’ve always been real to me. it’s my yoville business leader friends that don’t really exist.

31 08 2011
Audrey

I know, really — I love your post but I’m just brainstorming ways I can work “meat suit” in to conversation next. Like if there’s a dude running with no shirt on and it looks pretty good I’ll be like “Whoaaa check out the meat suit on that guy!”

Wish I could go! My workplace doesn’t let us use social media… very silly. 🙂

9 09 2011
bessmarvin

meat suit & meatspace are two of my favorites. but yeah, we should totally go meat suit cruising someday.

sadly, a lot of businesses don’t yet realized the importance of social media in self promotion, so you’re not alone. also, a lot of small businesses don’t have $150 right now to spend on stuff like utilities or paying their employees… i suppose it’s not wrong to prioritize.

1 09 2011
Corey Templeton

Congrats! That looks like a pretty fancy event. I wish I was an expert at something.

9 09 2011
bessmarvin

thanks corey! it does look fancy. i fear that i’m not fancy enough to be there, but i’ll figure something out. i thought you were an expert at photography?

2 09 2011
Blackgirlinmaine

Congrats! Dying to go but pretty unlikely since eldest kid just went back to college and forgot about the need for a meal plan so Mama is broke phi broke at the moment! I am sure you will definitely do well.

9 09 2011
bessmarvin

ah, the dreaded meal plan. that’s how they get you! but yeah, it’s pricey, and i won’t pretend like it isn’t out of reach for most of the people i know. hell, i wouldn’t be going if i wasn’t speaking. damn you lack of disposable income!

3 09 2011
Ashley

yayyy! that is so great.. i, just like those above me, wanted to go but cant afford it. you know the deal. good luck and congrats!

9 09 2011
bessmarvin

thanks! if i wasn’t speaking, i couldn’t afford to go either. 😀 what’s a good “panel of experts” outfit?

23 09 2011
amanda jennifer

OMG. I can’t believe I didn’t register that the thing you were talking about in this post was the thing I decided to go to. WHY!!! Didn’t I use the coupon code to save $25 student dollarzzzz. FAIL!!

3 10 2011
bessmarvin

bummer that you didn’t use the coupon code, but at least you got the student rate! it was nice to see you (if briefly). what was your favorite part? i’m currently obsessed with saul colt (we’re facebook friends now). and no, i totally haven’t forgotten that i owe you a drink! new job and nutcracker are shaking up my life a little these days.

26 11 2011
Michael J Cullen

Actually, we do exist, Asshole. You took a few vague articles and filled in the gaps with total bullshit and made a few jokes at our expense in order to get a speaking engagement at a social networking conference. WTG Bitch.

Mike aka Mike YBLA
(What a shock, we do exist)

26 11 2011
bessmarvin

mike. i’m sorry! on the upside for you, i look like a double asshole for not taking my own advice. i’ll admit, i was kind of entertained by the existence of a yoville business leaders association (it still seems a little absurd to me). i will also admit that i don’t entirely get the 2nd life style online gaming thing. but what i do understand is that whether i get it or not, thousands of people out in the world play these kinds of games and have rich and fulfilling lives within them (as evidenced by the fact that someone would embezzle thousands of dollars just to improve their standing/experience). and as such, those people/relationships deserve the same level of respect as IRL relationships. again, i’m sorry for being a jerk. it’s a thing that totally happens sometimes. also, i’m sorry that bettysue wrecked up your community (and i hope that it has started to repair). i’m curious to see how her addiction defense plays out, although it looks like she was an embezzler long before she met yoville. anyway, just goes to prove that there are assholes everywhere (me and bettysue included).

26 11 2011
Cindy

And… with this reply, you have now attained the title of classiest blogger (with a potty-mouth) I’ve ever known.

Move to the head of the class, A.

Happy (belated) thanksgiving.

30 11 2011
bessmarvin

thanks cindy! i don’t know if classy is ever the right word to use to describe me, but i’ll take it. happy thanksgiving to you too!

26 11 2011
Michael J Cullen

Thank you for your response. I apologize for not responding in a more polite manner.

Our experience with Bettysue was not limited to an online game. Many of us spoke with her on Skype and at least one of my club members met her in person. While we suspected she might have exaggerated, we didn’t know how horrible things really were. Her email address was from the trial lawyers association so when she told us she was the association’s Assistant Director, it wasn’t that difficult to believe. Over the two years that we knew her, we became increasingly suspicious that something was not right, but admittedly, none of us saw this coming.

I’m sure that there are others within our group who are not who they claim to be, but a good number of us are honest, hardworking people who just enjoy spending some of our leisure time playing a social networking game. In Yoville, people buy and sell virtual goods using game coins of cash that has been earned through game play or purchased with real money. It didn’t take very long for unscrupulous people to discover how to cheat others our of their coins. When the option to create “clubs” was added to Yoville, I formed YBLA to create a “safer” network of adult players and reduce the risk of being the victim of scams. I was unprepared for how close I would grow to these people over time. And at some point, I stopped thinking of them as avatars and began to consider them friends.

In my experience, there seems to be a point when virtual relationships when the “digital masks” are removed and a real friendship is formed. The club has evolved into a circle of friends, mutually supportive of each other both in and out of Yoville. We talk about our jobs, our families, and the daily challenges of life. We celebrate each other’s victories and we support each other through tough times.

Bettysue’s deception caused some to retreat from online friendships. A good number of us, however, refuse to give her that kind of power. Our friendships have endured, and we have moved beyond Bettysue Higgins affair, a little wiser and quite a bit more cautious than before. I refuse to become jaded and cynical because of one negative experience.

Over the past two years, I have met several of my club members in person, and, without exception, each has been more beautiful and genuine than I had anticipated. I am proud to call them my friends.

Thanks for reading.

26 11 2011
Jesse Lee Percy

NICE, well said Mike 😀

17 09 2012
i’m podcast famous! also, i’m an asshole. « broke 207

[…] if anyone wants to get wasted on cheap champagne with me), i’ve gotten nominated for stuff, got to speak at stuff, guest posted on a whole mess of wonderful bogs, and met a shitload of wonderful people.  but […]

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