A gentleman from sole to crown
January 26, 2013 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Aleksey Vayner, Whose Tale the Internet Mocked, Has Died at 29. A strangely poignant article on his death, from a reporter who had interviewed him in 2010.
Previously -- his viral fame, in 2006.
posted by Countess Elena (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is tragic and sad but, man, what a weird, weird situation he put himself in.
posted by ardgedee at 7:11 AM on January 26, 2013


I don't think there's anything cryptic about that Facebook message at all, although the sheer desperation of it is lost in translation.

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posted by griphus at 7:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Everyone has a purpose in life, some of us simply to provide an example of what NOT to do.

. (not ironic)
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Life can be a (short) strange trip.

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posted by incandissonance at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2013


When I first saw the video, I didn't think it was all that different from the hubris of other young people trying to distinguish themselves from the crowd. He just did it with better production values.

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posted by Mittenz at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2013


Thanks for posting this. I was one of those who mocked his video (and, yeah, him) in 2006, but never would have followed up to find out what happened to him. The nail that stands taller than the rest gets pounded down, and that is often both satisfying and sad. Primates suck sometimes.
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posted by GrammarMoses at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2013


Poor dude.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:36 AM on January 26, 2013


I always wondered how much of the mockery actually had to do with his ethnicity, actually. I mean, I've watched a lot of these horrible, horrible situations play out on the internet and it seems like the victim is very often someone who is already socially vulnerable because of race, accent, etc.

The comments in the article about, basically, how to survive being an internet punching bag are heartbreaking.

Poor son of a gun. Poor kid. (He may not seem like a kid to someone in their twenties, but he does to me.)

Whenever I get depressed about global warming, I remind myself that we are after all a species which enjoys hounding, threatening and abusing total strangers, and then I don't feel so bad.
posted by Frowner at 7:50 AM on January 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


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posted by lalochezia at 7:54 AM on January 26, 2013


:(

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posted by lonefrontranger at 8:09 AM on January 26, 2013


This is tragic and sad but, man, what a weird, weird situation he put himself in.

I'm pretty sure he didn't put himself in the situation. The videotape was meant to be shared with a very small number of people, with assurances of privacy. When it was taken and placed online, it was still in the infancy of the web, and so there was no way to predict that there was a developing body of itinerant online bullies who just trawl the net looking for something to mock. The worst you can say about him is that he produced an exaggerated, self-serving, somewhat humorous video when a young man. None of that, it seems to me, earned the sort of online response he received.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is sad news. I suppose with his video he was trying for a video version of the famous college entrance essay.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I saw this video back when it first came out, I thought it was terribly funny, but when I finished laughing, I thought to myself, "Well, he'll grow up. Being young and full of yourself isn't a crime."

In fact, I thought a period of mockery might be just what he needed to get a bit more grounded. But I hadn't really grasped, as I do now, that here in the sparkling 21st century, callow and sophomoric are forever. Your youthful stupidity gets plastered on the web for decades. I'm glad mine is not. No one deserves that, and my sympathy is with his family.
posted by tyllwin at 8:24 AM on January 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow. I remember watching his video and mocking him. Figured him for a grossly arrogant blowhard who finally got his comeuppance--but who would probably shrug it all off. I feel ashamed about the schadenfreude now.
posted by schroedinger at 8:25 AM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is just sad. I remember following the whole thing as it was doing the rounds, and while I didn't participate in the mocking, I don't recall feeling particularly worried about it either. You never know.

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posted by Dumsnill at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2013


I used to think that the difference between this guy and Tim Ferriss is that Ferriss followed-through and faked it until he made it. I'm not sure I believe this anymore and I'm still struggling to understand how people just sort of establish themselves as a success and then backfill their credentials.

Lying about yourself and believing in yourself when taking risks aren't that dissimilar. I can't say I liked the guy from what I saw of him, but he's not that different from the people selling billions of Herbalife or Airborne or tons of startup people. He just got ahead of himself, got caught, and froze. Those of us who feel the pang of impostor syndrome probably don't always like what we see when we look too closely at cases like this.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:43 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once it went viral, Aleksey became the target of endless barbs, parodies (including one very funny one by Michael Cera), and even death threats. When I met him a few years later, he said the backlash had been surprising, humbling, and deeply hurtful.

“I felt kind of like that Star Wars Kid,” he said, referring to Ghyslain Raza, the Canadian who sought therapy after a video he had made in private fell into the hands of classmates, who turned him into an Internet laughing stock.


Huh.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure he didn't put himself in the situation.

He invented charities and hedge funds and regularly plagiarized other people's materials, and many of his other claims were almost certainly lies as well. It's sad that he's passed on, but this wasn't like the Star Wars Kid, where his only sin was being goofy or unusual. Nor was he like Emperor Norton, whose confabulations ranged from harmless to beneficent.

Figured him for a grossly arrogant blowhard who finally got his comeuppance--but who would probably shrug it all off.

Arrogant blowhards tend to be miserable, secretly or not, especially if they never get even the baseline of status that they would need in order to feel normal. Maybe he was "born" a blowhard; maybe he was pushed into blowhard-dom by external pressures.

Either way, it's probably true that Vayner may have been both obnoxious to be around and also a human being who was in real suffering.

I can't say I liked the guy from what I saw of him, but he's not that different from the people selling billions of Herbalife or Airborne or tons of startup people.

I think that says more about the decrepitude of Herbalife, Airborne, and many startups! Then again, maybe it's true that the only difference between Vayner and those other things you list is some combination of luck, skill, and talent - there wasn't anything morally inferior about Vayner's puffery, it's just that he wasn't as successful at modulating it appropriately.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:58 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


He invented charities and hedge funds and regularly plagiarized other people's materials, and many of his other claims were almost certainly lies as well.

Yes. All of which would have been compelling reasons not to hire him. None of which are compelling reasons for a sustained, multi-year online bullying campaign from thousands of strangers.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


I used to think that the difference between this guy and Tim Ferriss is that Ferriss followed-through and faked it until he made it. I'm not sure I believe this anymore and I'm still struggling to understand how people just sort of establish themselves as a success and then backfill their credentials.

One difference is that Tim Ferris is basically an internet marketing genius (his first business was selling nootropic supplements online and the supplements business is one those high gross margin things where marketing is everything). He wrote a book based on long established principles (delegate and outsource what you can, manage your time aggressively, etc) that have been in business books for years, combined it with a brilliant title and boom: mega best-seller.
Unlike Vayner, Timothy Ferris got famous on his own terms.

I feel really bad for Vayner actually, if someone were to read things I'd written when I was a student about my plans for the future they'd probably think I was tremendously arrogant too. Of course, I wouldn't ever distribute something like that, even to a small group of people, but I guess he had a more permissive internal filter.
posted by atrazine at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems to me his mockery was well deserved. It was part of a massive societal defense mechanism. What if Vayner continued on his path, and actually achieved his goal of becoming an investment banker, hedge fund manager, or other Wall Street financier? He would have been just another member of the 1%, a cause of the financial ruin and misery of the 99%. His video resume was intended to speak to the other 1%ers on Wall Street, it speaks their language of entitlement and says he is one of them. No wonder everyone else was enraged, they should be outraged at assholes like that. I can only presume this video leaked out of UBS because someone mistook it for a parody of their own thoughtless greed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a hell of a comment on the brutality and meaningless of a social and economic system that requires people to sell themselves as products.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:25 AM on January 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


I still don't understand why UBS seemed to get away with their horrendous breach of privacy.

As for Vayner, I'm following the mum protocol.
posted by fullerine at 9:30 AM on January 26, 2013


It is odd that his hero was Pete Sampras who seems to either have one of the world's most sophisticated public relations firms or is one of the most level headed and grounded celebrities America ever birthed.

What I was thinking when I read this is the givewell metafilter astroturf deal. I read on another board that Aaron Swartz left his dough to givewell.
posted by bukvich at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2013


His video resume was intended to speak to the other 1%ers on Wall Street, it speaks their language of entitlement . . .

I don't think so. If it had, it would never have been amusing. Instead, it was a cargo-cultish imitation of ideas of Success from out of infomercials and the kind of business books that are sold in the SkyMall catalog. In the light of his death, that's pathetically affecting.

That's why I was so interested, and decided to make an obit post. I don't like liars or hustlers, both of which Vayner was. But I am immediately touched by the idea of someone so driven, someone who has tried to succeed all his life, facing permanent failure -- and being unable to go on living. In the past, I have struggled with that fear in my own way, and I'm sorry to see anyone lose his life for that reason.

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posted by Countess Elena at 9:59 AM on January 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


Poor guy. Could his video have been the "inspiration" for the Adidas campaign of the same name that came out a year later? I think we should be told.
posted by ZipRibbons at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2013


I read on another board that Aaron Swartz left his dough to givewell.

Whoa. GiveWell: In Memory of Aaron Swartz

Posted by (MeFi's own!) Holden
posted by porn in the woods at 11:18 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Discussion of Aaron Swartz can go in the existing thread about him.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:28 AM on January 26, 2013


As tragic as this is. I love that the article turns to Scumbag Steve as the voice of wisdom. Of all meme folk, Scumbag Steve, 10 Guy and Overly Obsessed Girlfriend seem to have had the easiest time with it. Of course the identity of Good Guy Greg still remains one of the biggest mysteries on the internets.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:42 AM on January 26, 2013


Note, Overly Obsessed Girlfriend was a performance. Big difference from unintentional memery.

Yeah, there's a certain personality that is able to grab hold of the meme wave like a surfboard and ride it in, and then there's another end of the bell curve where it completely swamps someone. (Not sure what the middle is -- people who are confused and quickly forgotten, perhaps?) I do think that Bunny's point about bullying is germane, though, because ultimately that's what this boils down to and the fact that millions of people around the world are doing it doesn't really excuse it. It's a little bit like the child pornography aggregate harm argument, in fact.

On the other hand, I don't want to abolish the funnay or even the unintentional funnay from the internets. Up to a point gentle mockery is still OK. But the problem is that not everyone observes that point, or even knows or cares that there should be one.
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2013


well, i wondered what kind of mean things i had said about him that i would now regret and discovered, in the linked thread, i had called him a genius who could go far in the world with a little more maturity and consistency

i'm not sorry for saying that, but i'm sorry he couldn't do it

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posted by pyramid termite at 12:08 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


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posted by olya at 4:01 PM on January 26, 2013


Wow this is sad. I only vaguely remember this video. Poor guy.
posted by sweetkid at 5:00 PM on January 26, 2013


"It is easier to criticize others than to criticize oneself."

But it takes a real asshole to go out of their way to yell "jump" at a guy on a ledge.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:44 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's the fucking self-righteous sanctimony of online bullies that gets me. The idea that they're somehow keeping peace and order, showing people what's right and proper, curbing the crimes of idiocy, difference, arrogance, weirdness, calumny, perversion. No sniggering shit on the internet has that power, it's not something you can fix or correct with an emotional bludgeon as heavy and as cruel as a campaign of internet-wide mockery. No one person feels the weight they're bringing to bear because when people sit on the internet, everything seems small, glib, distant, meaningless, absurd. It doesn't seem possible that a snarky comment can be a part of something bigger, and that that something can be a black tidal wave of hate and ostracisation thundering over a real, actual person sitting somewhere out there reading it all and quivering with embarassment and and misery. Especially when you're sitting in a cesspit of assholes like 4chan, or Portal of Evil or any of the myriad "communities" based on mockery, or Something Awful or even Metafilter sometimes, where it just seems fun and cool and harmless and funny and a great chance to score some more e-points.

Well, I say that --- except maybe it's those who are brazen and open about the fact that they're really only making someone's life miserable for the lulz who sicken me even more. So maybe I should go take a walk and do something constructive before I start frothing blood.
posted by Drexen at 8:00 AM on February 16, 2013


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