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“The first slightly offensive ‘How to’ Social Media book.”
When I first began my journey online, I was a typical consumer. I watched YouTube videos and laughed along with my father at people doing stupid things, and I ordered CD’s and DVD’s. I had no idea there was a world bustling out there, communicating, bartering, complaining, exploiting, shopping, buying and selling, all online. Yes, I knew about “chatrooms”, but that was as innocent as watching a soft porn B movie late at night on Canadian TV.
Then there was Ebay. I don’t need to get into specifics here. We all use it. But, at the time, I thought it was a miracle of sorts. Not only could I sell things that were essentially molding in my home, for almost more than I paid for it, but there was also the feedback and reviews that customers left when they were happy or mad, mostly happy about their purchase. That was my first connection with the world out there: the World Wide Web.
I was determined to get rich, no matter what, at a very young age. The first scheme I devised was to buy and sell a Lamborghini. I read a lot of my dad’s car magazines and saw the classifieds in the back of Road & Track. I was only twelve and thought I could get a buyer for the Lamborghini I was drooling over, somehow work a five day float where I get the money from the buyer and give it to the seller right away. I had never heard of the term “middleman” before, but that’s what I was trying to do.
Soon, there was a call from a guy wanting to buy the Lamborghini I didn’t have. My dad answered the phone and was confused as to why someone was calling about a Lamborghini, until he thought of me and laughed while explaining to the man on the phone that we didn’t own one, that it was his son with a wild imagination at work.
For some reason, I picked up very early in life the sense that everyone was motivated, excited, and driven to earn money. I knew it was the icing on the cake of life and I wanted my share.
Chapter 1 – My Investing Foray
Well, it didn’t start out that way. I was more excited about Rock music, girls and partying. With those three ingredients at play, my dreams of amassing wealth was deduced down to the bleak reality of hangovers, no motivation and poor self-esteem. My role models were unhealthy and so was I. I lost the drive that I had as a child, that sparkle in my eye for a better life, and I crumbled before the starting line of my adult life by dropping out of high school, and telling my parents to kiss off.
After a running around for a few years, I decided I needed to work to get out of the downward spiral. I didn’t have a college degree, let alone a high school diploma, so I had to start at the bottom.
I had been a dishwasher when I was sixteen and worked my way up to being a Line Cook by the time I was eighteen. Looking back, it was not really an accomplishment for getting promoted from dishwashing to cooking. It just meant I could flip a burger and not overcook things until they resembled leather. The pay increases in the restaurant business were ludicrous. When I received a raise it was usually in 25 cent increments. But, there was still a sense of accomplishment, even if I did hide my pride from the other co-workers, who were too busy smoking pot in the freezer to care anyway.
I realized that I could get bigger checks if I worked two jobs, and get Overtime by asking hungover co-workers if they wanted to give me any of their shifts. Pretty soon, I was working fourteen to sixteen hours a day. I could eat for free at work and my rent was next to nothing. I hadn’t gotten into credit card debt yet, so this was an easy time of life for me, even if I was on my feet sixteen hours a day.
I was bringing home sizeable checks, but I had expensive tastes, like my father, and of course I wanted things like a four thousand dollar high-end stereo. I burned through money, shoes, and clothes from the greasy kitchens I worked in.
As I got a little older, I was tired of working like a slave laborer, so I discovered “saving money”. I had never in my life saved more than a thousand dollars at a time, but I was now working at a restaurant that was next door to a stock broker.
I would drop in and ask about certain stocks. I felt rich being there in the first place. The broker and his secretary were nice and respected me, so I thought. At least I felt like they were there for me, and I had never felt like that before. It felt like they were working for me.
Soon, after a long week flipping burgers and making waitresses mad, I would bring the broker my cash as soon as I cashed my paycheck across the street. It was like the Bermuda Triangle for my money. I earned it at Point A, cashed it at Point B, and invested it a Point C, all within 20 minutes.
When I would go home at night, I studied the brochures they gave me, and in the morning before work, I would swing by and ask them how the stock market was doing. I was excited that my greasy broke ass was getting smiles and feedback from fancy stock brokers.
Soon, my $12 an hour income was contributing to a sizeable portfolio. I was very proud to see that my portfolio was now $17,000! I was so proud that on days when I was depressed driving to work, I would grab my statement from the glovebox and look at the numbers, especially the daily gains column. It made flipping burgers tolerable, and it gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of pride outside of the restaurant business.
I was giving the broker everything I had for a few years. Unfortunately, this was in 2004 or 2005, when the DOW was over 14,000. My portfolio had some stocks that were going to crash, along with the stock market, like Citigroup.
When the stock market crashed, Citigroup went from $52 a share to $1.93 a share, at the very bottom. I was very scared, but the risk-taking side of me wanted to buy more Citigroup at 1.93 to bring down my original purchase price of Citigroup of $52 a share. I had learned about “averaging” out a stock by buying on the dips and selling on the highs. It took about $4000 to bring my original purchase price of Citigroup from $52 to $32 in a year. It still looked bad, I had lost about half of my portfolio value.
I was furious that my broker had recommended Citigroup and other stocks that had crashed, and one day while he was eating a BLT I had made him, I asked him why the hell he recommended it to me. He mumbled that he didn’t recommend that stock to clients while chewing on some bacon, his mouth full of sandwich and pieces of bacon landed on the table. It was kind of symbolic, his spitting out pieces of something I had made in the kitchen for him.
I took a couple years off from doing anything foolish with my money, besides buying tons of useless things on several credit cards with my newly established credit rating. After working and going home every night like an automaton, I was getting restless from being listless and decided to inject some endorphins into my bland life. I discovered Pennystocks!
You might be asking by now, “What’s this have to do with making money on Twitter?” And, I would kindly reply, “Good things happen to those who wait,” Or, “Life is a waiting game,” Or, “F*** OFF!” So, hang tight my lightening quick thinker, processor person, savvy & chic metrosexual consumerator.
Pennystocks were a whole different ballgame, with quickening light returns, peaks & valleys, and huge payoffs and losses. It was my cup of tea. Being only twenty five, with nothing to lose, I put every penny I had into these unregulated demons.
There were the OTC stocks, meaning “Over The Counter”, which were passed around without any concern from the normal investors who stuck to the big trading houses and stocks. OTC stocks were not the worst, though. Pink Sheets were the dregs of the market. Hell, anyone could practically create a PinkSheet stock for their company.
With no real data on these companies, these stocks were basically driven by news. The news could be “made up” from the owners of the companies themselves. Then, Pennystock groups and chatrooms got into the game and helped promote these stocks in waves. The whole game was called “Pump & Dump.” The traders on the inside would load up on the shares of a particular company, wait for the news to release monday morning and sell by the end of the day when the price had peaked. Some waves of gossip pushed the buyers into a frenzy and a peak could last a few days. If the company turned out to be the “real deal”, the price kept moving up for a few months.
Out of desperation to make serious money, I loaded up on a Pennystock that was going for .0007 a share. That’s right! .0007 That’s 7 Ten Thousandths of a penny! So, a hundred bucks could buy you 142,857 shares! Ridiculous right? Some people made a few thousand dollars in a day on these pennies, others lost their house, just like gambling.
I bought in just on the hype of the company. I felt like it was legit when the president responded to an email on the status of the company. He said everything was great, they just needed more investors and capital. It was an IT company, which is scary in itself, because a lot of the IT business needs were met with the creation of apps & downloadable programs. The evolution of the internet squashed a lot of these companies, just like the Tech Bubble of 90’s did.
Anyways, I watched my total investment of $5000 turn into $135 dollars in the course of a year. The stock split a few times, then did a reverse split and then farted and died. That was my second big loss in a few years, all funded by a $12 an hour job flipping burgers. I guess you can say I was thick headed and a martyr for idiots everywhere. Instead of Jesus up on a cross, I was holding a burning piece of worthless stock while holding a apple fritter in-between my legs.
I felt so defenseless, watching my hard earned cash shrink into single digits. What was more unnerving was that the CEO of the company was recommended as a “follow” on some social media sites, like LinkedIn. So, his face appeared once in awhile, this wonderful bright smile emitting from his carcass of lies. It was a slap in the face, like other defeats in life, I was beginning to except these hardships at whatever cost, but it was hard. I couldn’t afford to keep playing with the big boys, at least thinking I was, with $5k here and 5k there.
As I ignored my ETRADE & ZECCO portfolios with screaming red negatives, I looked on the internet for more opportunities. My mindset was still stuck on investments, like stocks, and ETF’s, when I discovered HYIP’s. High Yield Investment Products were the shiny whores of the night, promising pleasures of the flesh on a discount. They were elusive, not owned by anyone, and disappeared after you gave them money.
I was taken by these shady investment products. I wanted to research these HYIP’s and get in on the game. I found a site that ranked HYIP’s, and I diligently took notes in my yellow notebook and circled the winners with the highest yields. Some of these shiny whores were promising 2-5 percent a day! Compounding!
I was mesmerized & repulsed at the same time with HYIP’s. Some of the websites were poorly designed and had typos on their Homepage. They were obviously crafted in some shithouse in Nigeria with a bunch of greedy tribesman standing around one of the first Apple computers.
Then, there were the ones that had bright colors, pictures of Lamborghinis and girls with guns, more like video game graphics than a financial product. I didn’t care. I wanted my money in one, working for me as I slept and dreamed about money.
I was bemused to find that these HYIP’s didn’t use regular money. Money had to be transferred to an overseas processor (think foreign Paypal), then converted into “e-currency”, then transferred to a HYIP. I quickly found out that it was hard to get a large amount of ecurrency at one time. These processors were small, so circulation of ecurrency was limited. If someone made a lot of money in a HYIP, they would have to use several methods to get their funds out of the HYIP’s. Liquidity was for shit.
I signed up with a processor that I won’t mention, and transferred funds to them using my debit card. It took about a day or two to see my funds in my dashboard of that processor. When it was available I was relieved that it worked and was excited to start buying my shiny whore HYIP’s.
I bought about five of them. Some were transparent in giving me a daily summary of my money working, and others were silent & bitchy. I wanted more. So, I transferred more funds until I had about 2k in the processor and the HYIP’s. I was buying into so many HYIP’s, that my processor pointed out to me that if I checked a certain box in my dashboard, then the HYIP’s and I could deal directly from within my account, meaning they could get access my funds without me logging out and back in again. Essentially, I relinquished my security to make it quicker and easier to purchase these whores, I mean HYIP’s.
I was so excited about making 2-5 percent a day, that I went to my parents house for dinner and told them the news with glee and sweaty hands. I then sat down to watch TV after dinner and act like a BMOC, sipping on Chai tea watching 60 Minutes with my dad.
It had been an hour since I had checked my balance in my processor. I was excited because I had just bought ten new HYIP’s, but I had 1500 left in my processor to spend. I ran upstairs to check on their computer. My heart dropped when I logged in to the processor and saw a giant 0 in my balance. My funds were completely gone. Not one cent left behind. This couldn’t be! I logged out and back in, as if rubbing my eyes to wake from a bad dream. 0. Again, 0. Again, 0.
Apparently, by checking that box allowed one of the shiny whores, now a terrible ugly whore, to wipe out my account. My money was free for the taking. The Nigerian Tribesman were laughing, as they moved their computer from one shithouse to the next to avoid detection. Okay, I will stop using the words Nigerian & whore. I’m into Law of Attraction, not Flaw of Subtraction.
I was thoroughly crushed. This was bad. I felt violated and robbed. My personal information was everywhere, entwined in this corrupt underworld. I felt like a drunken businessman in Shanghai. I looked at my dad and whispered that I had been wiped clean. He didn’t really understand what I meant, but he saw the water welling in my eyes and felt truly sorry for me. He didn’t tease me about anything for a few months after that.
After the heist, I tried contacting the FBI’s fraud department. I left the name of the processor and the HYIP I believed took my money. Of course nothing happened. I was S.O.L. I couldn’t look at my e-currency account anymore. It was like returning to the scene of a crime where someone was stabbed, like me, right in the Frontal Cortex where these stupid ideas were formulated.
So, when the dust settled of my hard-earned cash burned to ashes, I had no immediate plans for my future. I was stumped. I couldn’t go back to booze because that took something else of mine: my spirit & soul, not to sound too R&B-ish.
Chapter 2 – The Digital Revolution, or Devolution
After licking my wounds and gaining some false sense of importance, I discovered the InterWebs. They were frolicking about with Digital 1’s & 0’s, and people were playing with them. I wanted to play also.
I discovered that a lot of people had control now of their content, and they could bypass the large conglomerates that used to control what the public bought, listened too, read, etc.
I was excited to get in on the action. For years, I had been trying to record my music and get it out there, just like millions of other musicians. The thing is, I wasn’t that tech savvy. I had the drumset, the keyboard, the guitar, but no fancy software or any recording setup.
I researched ways to sell my music. I hadn’t even recorded a full song by myself before, I was always the dude behind the drumset in some garage playing covers with stoners. No, I was playing guitar, keyboard and drums because friends come and go, and it was more reliable to do it myself. So, I laid down a drum beat, then a guitar part, etc. It took a few tries to synch everything together. It was still sloppy. I didn’t use any software to play any instruments. It was my weak attempt at creating songs, like a poor man trying to cook gourmet with a can of beans and a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor: Impossible.
When I completed my first song, I was excited to send it out into the world. There were these distribution websites, a.k.a aggregate services which acted like a go-between for the musician and the big distributors, like iTunes & Spotify, where the musician pays something like $9 dollars a song to be added to the music catalog, a fee that usually reoccurs annually. These aggregate services will publish almost anything for a dollar, including my music & quirky Ringtones which I produce later.
After uploading my music, via a MP3 or WAV format, I then upload a picture and a title and it’s ready to launch into the world in 24 hours. Musicians came in droves to do this and what a lot of experts feared was a dilution of quality of music, when the big pile of shit from the masses began spewing out of consumer’s speakers. Musicians feared that their “space” of musical genius would be tainted by their fugly next door musicians. It didn’t happen. There was enough digital “shelf space” for everyone, but the music industry faltered any ways. No one knew who to turn to anymore for great music recommendations. Everyone had their own way of downloading, or buying music they liked. There was no more “expert” in recommending great songs. The music industry was handed down to the consumer in a triumphant ceremony, where RiRi kissed Chris behind the speakers, OMG, really?! OMG!
Thus, ERIK NARCISSIST was born:
I was so excited to be heard that I looked for any outlet where I could sell my music. Of course, every site charged something. I spent hundreds putting my songs on “internet radio”, and other storefronts. I waited for the sales to come pouring in.
It seemed like a year before I got my first sales report. I was ready to brace myself for a big surprise. I tried acting like a humble sage who didn’t care about money as I downloaded the report. But, then I saw it. A big “1” behind my song. 1 download in two months!
Okay, I was just too experimental sounding for the U.S., I thought. I will turn my normal named Twitter account into Erik Narcissist and Spam the shit out of the Japanese. Not only did they have to worry about Tsunamis, they now had to worry about the Erik Narcissist Explosion.
I had the brilliant idea of Direct Messaging every cool Rocker-looking Asian by using Bing Translator. I came up with a message, like “Get ready for the NEW Alternative Rock.” I couldn’t just DM every person I saw, I would be suspended on Twitter, I would be sent to Twitter jail, so I would leave the message as a reply in their tweets.
I’m sure the majority of them were offended, especially after discovering that Bing Translator sometimes completely fudged up the translation. I showed a sample to a buddy of mine who was Mexican. I made a note in Spanish to show him that I was an expert in translating messages. He laughed after reading it and told me that I wrote something referring that I liked men.
I spent three to five hours a day dropping these Japanese translations into reply boxes of every Asian “Rocker” I could find. Once in awhile, I got a “cool”, or I got a copied message of the Twitter rules. For some reason, I didn’t go to Twitter jail once.
After awhile it felt like I was hitting my head on my desk. I was trying so hard that every minute seemed like an hour with no results. There was a little voice in the back of my mind that told me that I didn’t spend enough time with my music, to get it to the best it could be. I slapped it together, and I knew it deep down. But, at the time, I was driven by the dollar, not my true calling, and in the end I didn’t get both.
The moment of peace came when I finally let go. It was a “fuck it” feeling that evolved into an inner-calm. Pretty soon, life got back on track and the obsession of my music dissipated. It was liberating to climb out of the trenches of Twitterville and breathe some fresh air. I could leave the house without feeling like the Unibomber.
When the bad taste dissolved, I needed to switch it up and take more risk. Having been dissed by the music industry, I switched to Ringtones.
Ringtones = 30 seconds of outlandish, zany tidbits, like commercial jingles. I had my keyboard and special effects on my microphone, so I thought the creative possibilities were limitless. Soon, I created timely classics, such as “Dog Ate My Face!”, “My Butt!”, and “Don’t Fall Down with a Beer in your Hand.”
My earnings went up to two dollars a month, because Ringtones were a dollar a download, and two people out of 7 Billion liked my shit! After six months I barely had enough to pay the yearly fees to the digital publisher.
Soon, I had the realization that none would sell. I had created 25 of them, not fully realizing that the annual dues would be $250. I would surely lose money. I spent the next year unsubscribing each song manually from my Dashboard. The means to unsubscribe were as difficult as going through a muddy bootcamp course.
Again, you’re like, “What the Hell does this have to do with making money on Twitter?” Well, hmmm, would you like a doughnut? No, seriously, th