"Oh my God, did you see this story on my wall?"
Grace handed her phone over to Jill to read.
As Jill read the first lines of the post she looked down to check how many people had clicked share from Grace's post and smiled.
"Six people have shared this story. This is awesome!"
"That people are sharing it? Why is that the awesome part, you haven't even read the whole story yet, it's so moving. You have to read the whole thing. I totally cried."
"I don't have to read it, I wrote it."
"You wrote it? It's about a boy and his dog. You don't have a dog and you aren't a boy. What do you mean you wrote it?"
"I wrote it. You don't have to have a dog to write about having a dog."
"But this isn't a fiction piece, this is an essay. This guy had a dog when he was little and the dog saved him from a snake and the boy thought the dog had run away but..."
"When he was older he had an accident on his motorcycle the dog came back out of the desert and barked until someone heard and came to rescue him. I told you, I know. I wrote it. I wasn't really sure if it would work or not. It seemed like it might be a little too, I don't know, improbable, but people love stories about dogs so I've found I can get away with a little more in them."
"You mean you write other things like this?" Grace was starting to think her friend Jill wasn't kidding and she actually had written the story about the boy and his dog.
"Yes, I told you I was a copywriter, what did you think I meant?"
"I thought you worked in advertising or something!"
"I do. Sort of. Marketing really. I write stories that move you, you share them, other people read them and share them. Out of everyone who shares them maybe a third go back to the website the story started on and like the page. More likes means more advertisers for the site. More shares means more likes. More likes means a bigger bonus for me and a higher price for my next piece. Last year my most shared story went out over a million times and was attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Einstein and Morgan Freeman!"
"What?" Now Grace was even more confused.
"Oh, that's when you know you've written something really good. When you see it reposted somewhere with a famous person's name attached to it. Screen shots of those got me a big enough bonus to pay for my trip to Hawaii."
"Okay, wait, so you write stories like this for Facebook?"
"Well, now for Facebook, my first story was actually in HiLights magazine when I was a kid. But Facebook has been a huge boon to my industry. Or at least my sub-specialty. I write sad-tivotional things. Sad but moving. Things that make you cry when you read them. Animal stories are really good for that though a good military homecoming works as well. Though you have to be really careful with those because the anti group loves to post on those that they are fake. Drives me crazy."
"But they are fake!"
"No, they aren't fake. They are real. I wrote them. They are real stories. The emotions are real, what you feel is real."
"But the people aren't real! Isn't this super cynical?"
"No, I was never really good at the cynical stuff. Which turned out good for me in the end. Before the internet the cynical stuff was a big seller. Letters to the editor, stories for kids to pass around on playgrounds, bar stories, those were big sellers, but it turns out that everyone online thinks they can write cynical so they sort of glutted the market with the amateur stuff. Every once in awhile I will run across a piece of pure cynicism and know one of ours wrote it, but not as much anymore."
"That's not what I meant, and what do you mean one of ours? Do you all work for the same people? What the hell, Jill?"
"I think most of us work for one or two companies. I work for Aesop's. They've been around for ages, but there are some that are older than them. Aesop always liked the animal stories though so it was a good fit for me. But in this day and age they can't talk, they have to be heroic without seeming too much like people. It's a fine line. Parables are tough. Each generation takes their lessons from different places and you have to go with the flow, you know? In today's day and age you have to watch out for stories that are too good to be true. Pics or it didn't happen right? Water to wine wouldn't fly today unless there was a chemist on site to verify."
"Water to wine? Are you saying that someone like you wrote that?"
"Oh, Grace, now who is being cynical?"
"You didn't really answer me."
"But it doesn't matter, that's my point. The story about the boy and his dog? You read it, it moved you, you thought it was lovely, you shared it. Other people read it, they were touched, they shared it. That's what's important. You were moved. You probably sent your brother a nice note or gave your dog an extra treat after you read it as well."
"See? That's my point. It's all real. Are you telling me you cried when Dumbledore died because you thought he was a real person? Or was he just real to you in that moment? When you go to a movie do you watch it thinking, 'I will like this less because it's fiction.' or do you just enjoy it for what it is?"
"But I thought this was a true story. Now it's not as moving. Now I will wonder if everything I am reading is fake. It won't be as special because it's not true."
"But what does it matter? If it moved you then who cares if it's true? You sound like an anti."
"What the hell is an anti?"
"My theory is they are all of the out of work cynic writers. They are the ones you see posting on a really cool photograph 'shopped' or in the comments of a wonderfully crafted story,'snopes says this never happened' I can't prove it but I am pretty sure snopes itself is run by antis. They are the bane of my existence. They can stop a sharing train right in its tracks. So freaking annoying. You spend all day working on a piece to get just the right balance between freaky cat and helpful cat and one of them ruins it!"
At that point Grace started to laugh. "Oh my God, you've totally been pulling my leg haven't you?"
Jill smiled at her friend, "Yeah, totally. Come on, I had you going for a minute though didn't I?"
"You did! I always fall for your stories!
I have to go use the restroom, I'll be right back."
As Grace walked to the bathroom Jill checked her phone. The story was up to 12 shares just from Grace's page now. She signaled the bartender, "Next round is on me!"