…re encourages us to think bigger than ourselves and wonder with awe at the mystery of our universe. But the story behind the tale of the Times Square Time Traveler also reveals just how eager we are to confuse fact with fiction.
Amy Brady, this actually happened in a very small way to me not so long ago, and it made me wonder about the phenomenon of judgement-free credulity. I wrote novella dramatizing the experiences of fictional teenager in California who was forced into conversion therapy after his dad caught him making out with a boy.
I serialized it on Medium and promoted each chapter on Facebook, always careful to announce that it was fiction. I even had public discussions with some readers about how I came to imagine the story.
After two or three chapters, though, readership started to snowball, and my inboxes and comment sections (on Facebook, not on Medium) flooded with outraged responses from readers who believed the story was real and who wanted specific location information from me so they could go to California and rescue the boy or put pressure on local authorities to rescue him.
I couldn’t keep up with the comments. The faster I put out disclaimers that the story was fiction, the more people read the initial chapters and believed they were real.
Part of it, I suppose, was that I wrote most of the story in first person with a pretty authentic voice, but it’s interesting that I never got that reaction on Medium — only on Facebook and a little bit on Twitter.
Was this phenomenon of credulity due to people’s instinctive desire to protect children? Was it because of a need to feel part of something larger and more important than daily life?
I don’t know, but once in a while, I still get a message or a comment asking me if Caleb is OK.