Social media platforms like Facebook have become our own personal stage that shows the world who we are. It is a space where we see who is who and what we are doing with our lives. It is also a place where many of us express ourselves on a daily basis and show our artistic sides through writing, photography, style, and more. For many businesses, entrepreneurs, social media leaders, bloggers, and other social media users… Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc— are extremely important platforms for material to reach audiences.
So what does it mean when someone crosses the line and copies the way you express yourself and share information on social media? What do you do when you share your teachings, insight, and unique fingerprint on a subject with someone and they take it and claim it as their own? What do you do when they begin sharing it on their own social media outlets — with no recognition of where they got it from and begin to form an identity comprised of years of this guidance and insight from you instead of their own?
This behavior crosses beyond flattery and turns into a form of fraud.
If this has happened to you, then you are a victim of self-identity fraud. Self-identity fraud is something we cannot copyright, but is the consequence of someone stealing from you by means of emulating who you are as their own personal identity.
Now that we create works of art expressing ourselves and using high traffic social media platforms to do so, we have exposed ourselves to the risk of self-identity fraud more than we ever have before.
We all find inspiration from others. The idea that someone owns an original thought is far from true. In a world of billions of people, it is known that two people across the world from each other can think of the same invention or philosophy. However, there’s a reason why copyrighting exists in the first place — because it protects people who spend countless hours and days, experiences, and works of art utilizing, molding, perfecting these thoughts into something useful and productive for the world and for their businesses. The same goes for others who emulate another person’s identity on social media, especially when this identity and expression is used to promote their business, brand, or other works connected to them.
When people copyright infringe upon others and do not give credit — it becomes a form of fraud. They dishonor the hard work and dedication devoted to the grueling process of the finished work of the owner. They dishonor the mentors or people who inspired them.
However, if they honor someone’s work by mentioning it with recognition on how it inspired them with their own work, then it becomes flattery. Then it is respected and honored. Then it becomes the right thing to do.
This is my self-identity fraud story:
It was morning and my phone notification went off. I opened a new text message and clicked on a link that led me to an article my then best friend wrote. As I began to read through it, I didn’t recognize the article containing only her voice. I also recognized mine. I discovered, yet again, an aspect of myself was copied, claimed, and mirrored into her identity and self-expression as if it was her own.
A week prior I had shared an article I wrote with her. This article was an entirely new writing style for me in which I expressed a very personal, honest, and vulnerable experience I had with my ex-fiance (you can read that here). It was difficult for me to express myself in this way but it brought me to a new level of vulnerability that my writing needed. It went over well and helped boost me to a nice rating on Medium for the Advice section. She was happy for me and loved my post. However, a week later is when she sent me the morning text leading me to an article she wrote about her ex-husband. She copied my writing style, but added a different writing style at the end of her article. This was the catalyst for me to finally see what was going on.
Her identity and picture have been hidden for privacy.
For the last several years, aspects of my personality, my identity, and my written voice was copied and stolen by (my now) ex-best friend.
Left: Me from 2014. On right, her from 2017. Similar posts and writing styles from 2017.
I spent those years life coaching and guiding her. I encouraged her to find herself and to obtain true happiness. I loved her with all of my heart. I am a very intuitive person and would often do readings for her and teach her things about the spiritual philosophy of life. She would intently listen but wouldn’t really comment on it very much. A few days later would go by and she would come back to me stating she needed to share with me that she had a powerful realization while in a deep prayer with her Christian faith, and essentially she’d repeat back to me what I told her a few days prior. Sometimes, I would remind her of what I shared with her and she’d laugh it off — avoiding the confrontation of it. Soon after, she would write a social media post sharing the insight I gave her with no recognition.
I ignored this and ignored this — thinking… “Hey, it’s okay. This is important insight and if it helps inspire others, then I’m glad it’s getting out there in this other outlet.” However, as time went on I found myself feeling uninspired. No longer sharing many of my inspirational posts with my own social media friends and loved ones, I began to lose myself in fear that our crossing social media pages would be repeating themselves. I started to feel like someone was taking advantage of me and using me for something. Each time I would think this, I would shrug it off. For the longest time, I never could admit to myself that this was happening — that my best friend would consciously do this on purpose.
In the sober realization of my feelings, I honestly felt violated and small. I felt like I was disappearing from my path and purpose. Here was this girl with similar talents taking ideas and philosophies I’ve developed over years of grueling self-discovery, intense meditation and my teachings, selfie photo styles, hair styles, etc, and putting it out there with her name on it. It felt wrong and even more wrong knowing that she was my best friend. I also felt like I failed her as a teacher. My goal was to encourage her to be 100% herself, not copy me or anyone else in that process. And then I felt frustrated at myself for allowing myself to become stagnant and lost. Regardless, I should have still put my own content out there — even if it did seem like we were saying the same thing to those who had us both in their social media view.
When her brother tragically died in a car crash last year, I sent her one of my favorite books called, “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers,” by Annie Kagan which is a book written by a sister who lost her brother in a tragic car crash. The premise of the story is that the sister’s deceased brother was communicating with her from the afterlife and sharing with her his experiences as he was crossing over and teaching her powerful truths about life in a book they could write together and share with the world (I highly recommend this book. You can check it out here),
Soon after she started reading this book, she told me she was writing a book about her brother and what he was sharing with her. He was teaching her things about life and she would share this with others to help them. She would help others cope with grief in the experience she had by losing her brother. At the time I knew this wasn’t healthy, but figured it might have been a temporary coping mechanism for her, but she continued to write it. Currently, she has this upcoming book mentioned in her new website where her book section will be. I realize that I am not the only one she copies from.
And lastly, for an example, it was brought to my attention that she also copied a logo I had been using for my business.
If you’re like me or have been in my shoes then you’ve wondered why people do this. Well, I believe people who copy other people’s identities are looking for a way to find acceptance and love from the outside world. They have deep levels of insecurity and they struggle to find themselves in fear of not being good enough for anyone or anything.
According to my ex-best friend, she had a lot of childhood trauma with her mother. She stated that her mother didn’t show her love growing up or would accept her as a daughter. She spent years trying to fit into her family and gain her mother’s acceptance and love. Perhaps many people who copy others are simply trying to find love and self-love because of situations like this. Maybe they were rejected by parents, siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, society in general… and they keep trying on new identities until something helps them feel they are good enough, accepted and loved.
The difference between flattery and fraud is simple: One who contributes to flattery is inspired by someone and mimics aspects of that person in small equations into their identity and mentions credit when using another person’s work to expand on their own. One who commits fraud tends to copy aspects of another person in larger equations into their identity, rebrands themselves, and avoids giving recognition of copy or use of work.
As my mother put it, “She liked the attention she saw you get and how people received you by what you wrote for them, how you inspired them, and she wanted that for herself.” For a long time, I refused to see this because I have a hard time seeing how the world receives me, and also because she had a huge part of my heart. For many other reasons — we had a beautiful friendship and sometimes I miss the shit out of her.
When I confronted her, she blew up. Instead of having a good conversation, she called me egotistical for wanting acknowledgment even though I said to her that she didn’t even have to say my name but all she had to do was just mention a teacher or someone close to her inspired her by the insight and teachings I taught her. I told her it was egotistical to not want to give recognition to those that bring inspiration into her life when she takes and uses their content or teachings. We didn’t see eye to eye on this and we ended our friendship right there.
I was angry and I will probably miss aspects of our friendship for a while, but a true best friend, someone who loved you thoroughly, would not do what she did, nor when confronted, would react in the way that she did.
I think it’s important, though anger is a normal reaction to have, to remember that the people who do this tend to suffer a lot and have a lack of self-love and confidence within their hearts. Be compassionate. Find compassion.
I will always wish the very best for her and I really hope she finds and becomes her full authentic self one day — for she is a gorgeous person who deserves to feel confident, loved, and fully self-acquainted. The authentic aspects of her that I was able to see made her uniquely perfect and special.
For any of you who have gone through this, I think it’s incredibly important to not enable anyone who crosses the line from flattery to fraud with you and I think it’s important for their growth to confront them when needed.