(Telegraph) Meet James Fridman, the internet’s favourite Photoshop troll
Trolls. They get a bad rep, but have you ever stopped to consider that, just perhaps, they’re misunderstood? Have you not felt sympathy when considering the contempt in which they’re held, or admired their attempts to punish wrongdoing and uphold social norms?
If not, shame on you, but I should clarify that I’m referring to the trolls of Scandinavian folklore (as understood by the historian John Lindow), not the bullies who infest social networks like Twitter and 4Chan.
These trolls differ vastly from their Scandi ancestors. The Oxford Dictionary defines a troll as “a person who makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online post”. The exploits of these embittered keyboard warriors make column inches on a regular basis, from the bad eggs who hurled sexist slurs at Mary Beard, to the bullies who plague female stars such as Em Rusciano with vile abuse on a regular basis. But are they really as bad as they’re made out to be?
Yes. Except one. His name is James Fridman, and he has single-handedly transformed trolling into an art form through his notorious Twitter account. Think of him as a Twitter troll with a social conscience; a noble vigilante on a mission to defeat online narcissism armed only with Adobe Photoshop and a killer sense of humour.
In a nutshell, he makes stuff like this:
The Photoshop wizard takes submissions of photos via email, his website or by direct message on Twitter. The photos come with requests to doctor the image, which he then misinterprets in some dastardly manner or another, like a mischievous genie with a digital lamp.
“I don’t consider myself a graphic designer, it is more of a hobby”, he explains. “When I first started using image manipulation software, it was something new and not as widespread as it is now, so everyone was learning and experimenting. I did some funny edits for friends and family, and they ended up on the internet. Apparently, people found it quite entertaining and asked for more – that’s how I ended up creating my Twitter account.”
Modesty is typical of the self-effacing internet star. There is only one image of him online, and this is his first interview with the press. It masks a major success story: he has 1.12m followers on Twitter at the time of writing, and even boasts that holy grail of internet success – a Wikipedia page.
Generally speaking, Fridman tackles the theme of online self-obsession and promotion with an air of frivolity, but this June he received a submission he took issue with and felt the need to break character in order to expose what he saw as an injustice.
Submitted by a parent who had created social media profiles for her nine year old son to display his make up, the request was to airbrush a picture of the child to make his make up appear more vibrant. Everything about the submission seemed off to Fridman, which he instantly made clear by posting his opinions on the matter in the place where his response to the submission would usually sit.