Dan Baca, a 29-year-old network engineer, was going about his life, minding his own business, when suddenly people began staring at him. He noticed it first while he was standing at the busstop in the morning. Crowds of people were gathering, looking at him, whispering to each other. It happened a few days in a row. Finally he confronted them. Why, he demanded to know, was everyone staring at him? The reason, they told him, was that he was an internet celebrity.
On May 11, 2001 Dan's picture had been posted on a local internet portal, San Francisco's craigslist.org
, in the 'Missed Connections' forum. The picture's caption read, "Gorgeous Guy @ 4th and Market at the MUNI/Amtrak Bus Stop (Mon-Fri)."
The person who had posted the message talked about how she wanted to meet this guy, but she didn't know his name. She was hoping he would see her message and contact her.
This initial posting initiated a flood of follow-up messages. The Gorgeous Guy at the busstop became the talk of San Francisco's online community. People theorized about who he was, whether he was single, straight, gay, etc. Then people began going to the busstop to see him in person.
Eventually David Cassel, a freelance journalist, caught wind of the Gorgeous Guy phenomenon and wrote about it in the San Francisco Bay Guardian
. National media then picked up on the story, and soon Dan Baca found himself fielding calls from CNN
and the Tonight Show
Gorgeous Guy Debunked
Cassel, however, was suspicious. Something about the story didn't ring true to him. So he did some more research and discovered that the majority of the people who had posted the initial follow-up messages that drew attention to Gorgeous Guy's picture shared an IP address (an identification number assigned to every computer online). Furthermore, this IP address appeared to trace back to Dan Baca himself.
Cassel suggested that Baca had created an array of online personalities to convey the sense that a crowd of people were talking about him. This strategy eventually succeeded in attracting the attention of a real crowd.
Baca maintained his innocence, claiming the messages had been posted by his co-workers as a prank.
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