Thursday, March 24, 2011


It’s called "unscripted television" now—a quasi-admission by reality show producers that not everything you are seeing is quite real. After all, we don’t ordinarily live our lives with cameras and cameramen—in eyeshot and earshot—recording our every move and every emotion.

Once upon a time we were supposed to accept the basic premise of reality shows that human beings behave naturally when being filmed—spontaneously, even in the most intimate of moments. But apparently, it doesn’t really matter to the viewing public whether it’s truly real, or real in some ambiguous definition of the word, because it's still entertaining.

Albeit in the virtual ether, Facebook shares common ground with unscripted television. There is a mother lode of revelations, support, good humor, bad humor, as well as unhealthy doses of vitriol, too, on people’s personal “walls.” Facebook is real, unreal, and surreal all rolled into one Internet soap opera. By its very nature, this kind of social interaction is akin to having the cameras rolling. Yes, occasionally good old-fashioned reality and total candor shines through. In the instance that I am about to recount, the man’s honesty is absolutely breathtaking.

It seems that a thirty-something fellow, who’s evidently held some responsible adult jobs in his life, had encountered a few financial difficulties in recent years. So, it was with unrestrained joy that he reported to his Facebook family that his financial woes were a thing of the past—the Heavenly Father having intervened on his behalf. He informed one and all he had won a considerable sum from Publishers Clearinghouse.

I never knew of any real person who actually won one of their prizes. These are the people who show up at your door with a bunch of balloons and a colossal-sized check made out to you. Now, had this poor chap posted a photo of the PCH entourage on his doorstep, I may have been more inclined to believe in his good fortune. But within his description of the blessed event—difficult enough to swallow—there were a couple of particulars that didn’t exactly pass the smell test.

Sure enough, a mere day later, he announced on Facebook that his unexpected but very welcome windfall was not to be. He deposited the $26,500 check he received in the mail, he said, only to be asked to wire a $3,000 processing fee to the scam artists before they would permit it to clear. On numerous fronts, this almost-victim of a big-time hoax came across as not too smart. New Jersey-born guys are supposed to be more savvy than that. Seriously, his Facebook info listed his occupation as "financial adviser." He wasn’t an old lady living alone on a fixed income, or some uneducated man trying to make ends meet and support his family. He had a college degree and offered investment advice.

What would you do if you received an unsolicited $26,500 check in the mail? I suspect you’d be skeptical and probably recycle it without further ado. Our guy called a phone number to verify its authenticity. He alerted the world via Facebook about his sudden good fortune without doing a right and proper investigation. Personally, I wouldn’t reveal a financial matter of any kind and under any circumstances on a social networking site. I'd imagine, too, this revelation won't help his future business prospects. Reality…unscripted…yuk!

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