Internet Time Machine

Lifestyles of the Fake and Lonely

The truth about pretending to be someone else on the internet

Harris Sockel
Published in
5 min readDec 18, 2019


Illustration: Jesse Zhang

This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.

CConnor is 27, with green eyes and a dorky grin. His favorite emoji is the shaka (🤙), which he uses to express a casual DTF energy. He’s tan and toned, athletic yet approachable, and his profile photos resemble ads for a millennial lifestyle brand. There goes Connor, throwing up a peace sign on Runyon Canyon. Surfing as the sun sets over Manhattan Beach. A mirror selfie, an action shot, an abdominal V.

Connor is your average thirst trap next door. Also, I created him in the palm of my hand.

The photos are a friend’s. Sorry. Not a friend’s. A friend of a former roommate of a distant acquaintance’s, the hottest friend of a former roommate of a distance acquaintance I know. I found them on Instagram, screenshotted a select few, and cropped out the identifying details with no one’s permission but my own. It felt harmless, or fun, or necessary, somehow, in the way chronic loneliness can make you believe many unnecessary things are necessary.

I know. I’m sorry.

I tapped my way through a popular gay dating app’s sign-up flow, uploaded the photos, and invented a person. Connor is a software engineer, though if you ask him what kind he’ll have to home-button his way out of the conversation. He grew up in L.A. but just moved to “Willyburg.” He says “haha,” not “LOL,” which takes some getting used to. He almost never exceeds one line of text. He is calm, cool, and Objectively Hot.

“I’m so glad we matched!”




And this isn’t Grindr, either, but a newer, more ostensibly ethical and supportive queer app. A safe space, until I came along.

I match with everyone. For three hours, I mainline approval like the approval-hungry human I am. It feels like I’ve unlocked another dimension. I don’t have to tread the waters of small talk or drop gratuitous exclamation points to telegraph how happy I am to be here — my matches do that. When…