Juliette was locked out from her own Facebook page. It perplexed her. She was at work, and trying to review her status, under her work excel document. She had typed her password in numerous times, and now tried variations using the shift key.
“I’m sure it was all lower case”. She typed in her password again.
Juliette’s desk was between the HR “Alpha” team, and the IT “Bravo” team. Team Accounts (TA), was her title, and number crunching, efficiency and ginger and lemon tea bags her office speciality. Her Facebook and her hotmail and gmail accounts were inaccessible. She was missing the frisson of her daily on-line exchanges. She felt it normalised her day. She craved the information her friends shared: Lisa, hollered “Got my free pair of proper DVT socks for long flights… blagged off another rep!”… Shafina shrieked “OMG you’re a Harry Potter fan too …lol …. I’m not a big one… but a close friend is…you’ll meet her soon.” Where was all that noise? She missed her 98 friends. Sincerely, she did.
By lunch time, the dawning realisation that someone else had control of her was becoming a reality. Juliette knew she wasn’t phished, she was careful and bounced bogus bank requests. She called Charlie in IT, who sent Nihal over, and the sad truth of realising that her life had been subsumed by another dawned on both of them. With Nihal’s support, Juliette had un-earthed the horrifying extent of the fraud. Her Facebook friends all thought that she had her credit card stolen, and that she was in trouble in Egypt, on the Nile Delta. “Precious Heaven ” had e mailed all her contacts, and was asking for money for her family. “Who would do this? Nihal?- and why?”
By the next morning, Juliette had to close all her accounts, even her mobile phone, and had to bring her lap top from home, to see if Nihal could help her clean that out as well. She felt violated, and abused. “Who would do such a thing?” echoed in her head. She was determined to find out.
Juliette became fixated by Precious Heaven. She searched her, tracked her IP address. The server was in Russia. Eventually she found a photo tagged “precious heaven” which was a mass of people at a golf club at an exotic hotel with a blurry pixilated image in the background, with a scarcely decipherable face. From that photo, she was able to trace that, “precious heaven” was linked to Nneka Ozigbodi. Or Efia Ebo… Or Althea.. “Right, she thought. “On it. Got her…”
For many months, Juliette shadowed her. She lurked in the background, following her, studying her… “She stole my identity – I’ll steal hers.” She set up a number of accounts throughout the world, via an Indian call centre, ripped other people’s images as her own. Her small handful of close friends contrasted vividly with her rival’s thousands. Juliette’s posts were domestic; weather; shopping; traffic jams; friend’s birthdays. Nneka/ Efia/ Althea’s life was extravagant; Sunset in Abuja; shopping trips in Accra; with stop overs in Cotonou and sushi at the airport. Dancing the Foxtrot in Durban; pretty people in a club in Lima; MC-ing- around a hand held mike. Elegant outfits, everywhere. African print flowing maxi dresses. Her thief would casually snap her life and share it.
Juliette’s on line identity and her real life were bounded and constrained by modest social convention. She was married at 24, and had two lovely children by 30. Her job afforded her a nice flat, dinner our once a week with her husband. November was reorganise her flat month. Cinema tickets and visiting family revolved on a bi-monthly basis. She had made a couple of budget trips to Europe, with her friends – but had never flown long haul. Juliette saw things she’d never seen before, nor had she any idea what they were or how they might taste… Now in her mid thirties, she didn’t crave the life she saw, but dismissed it as chaotic and disorganised.
Then it all happened. “Ginger and lemon?” Nihal asked. Juliette opened her second draw, and got a bag for him. She felt a little listless. It was cloudy, and the shadowless lighting of the office cast a blue flat light over the photo’s of her daughter and family.
Here we go. She typed, “Hi”. She was on one of her alter ego’s pages, a blank identity, no photo, and initials as her ID: OP- Oscar Papa… A ping… “Hi”, came back. OMG she thought. What now…? “Who are you…?” “Where are you…?” it continued….
“Montreal…Quebec” she typed. “It’s sunny here…What time is it for you” It was the end of the day for Juliette. Her spread sheet was prepared with a character breakdown of her Romeo, she know his geography, time zones, families, passwords. He drove a Sierra, lived in Laval, went to tango classes, had uniform job. She threw in a few school girl French words to authenticate her avatar. “Oscar Papa” became her alter ego. A French Canadian, who in her mind would ensnare Nneka, promise her the world, and then vanish.
But she hadn’t accounted for her avatars great good nature and humanity. The more she wrote as “OP” the warmer the response from her avatar was. It confused her, as she wanted to dislike Nneka. Her avatar had assumed that OP was American not Canadian. She was entranced by her other world, the life style, thousands of friends, happy with following her tweets, obsessed with tracing through the remnants of her life, searching her friends photos. Oscar Papa was somewhat smitten.
A week later, on a late at night, Juliette craved a nugget of someone else’s life. She logged on, Password: “Victor,” as she believed she would win. She sipped a super smooth Scottish whiskey, straight up. Her analytical skills were high, scalpel like.
Her X-ray like approach to all details had paid-off she thought. She craved a few words to “Yankee” as she had been cheekily nicknamed. Then the horror for a second time. Blocked. Her Avatar thief had barred her. Disappeared into the ether 2000 friends, some of whom were Xhosa, Zulu and Ndebele she would never see again. Lost in space. Poor Juliette- had lost not merely her identity but her heart.
Bio ~ Keith Khan.
Born in London, with Trinidadian / Indian heritage Keith Khan is a UK creative with 20 years international experience and a unique design vision. He shapes and delivers major international arts events, projects and spectacles.
Keith Khan has conceived and directed many seminal events that are site specific or engage with technology and digital media. He created the vision for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and the Rich Mix Cultural Centre. He works collaboratively, and the projects are the result of numerous partnerships with other artists, musicians, organisations and institutions.
His work reflects the social and cultural framework from which it is produced.Keith’s practice is informed by ten years of creating on carnival in Notting Hill and Trinidad. Carnival ‘Mas camp’ skills have been scaled up and applied to the delivery of major later works. His work incorporates the values of working from within a community to generate spectacle.
From delicate digital saris to large scale spectaculars, Keith´s designs are beautiful.