Ten years ago, author/comic/speaker B.J. Mendelson was one of the most popular guys around.
“It was the early days of Twitter, and back then, I had a million followers,” the Monroe resident says.
“I was right up there with Oprah and Ashton Kutcher and CNN.”
“I didn’t earn those followers,” he says.
“But the folks at Twitter thought I was funny and they were really promoting me because they wanted people to stick around on Twitter.”
“I was an early adopter of MySpace, Flickr, Friendster, PhotoBucket and Twitter,” he says.
“Although my degree was in political science, I figured I could make it in online marketing and advertising.”
But it didn’t quite work out that way.
“That was back in 2008, during the recession, and jobs were scarce,” says the 2001 Monroe-Woodbury grad.
“After graduating from Potsdam, I was living in South Glens Falls and I applied for every job - even a steamboat captain, and I knew nothing about being a steamboat captain.”
So he took a job as a Santa Claus in the local mall.
“And I’m an atheist!” he says. “That was a low point. I was depressed.”
But Mendelson still had his million followers, which made him somewhat of a social media star, so he accepted a position promoting a tour for a national breast cancer awareness foundation.
Only that didn’t work, either.
“Nobody showed up at the rallies, and I think we raised $1 at one rally,” he says.
“Turns out it didn’t really matter how many followers I had online because it didn’t translate into results.”
“Then, out of the blue, a retired Marine Corps colonel named John Folsom reached out to me to promote his tour,” Mendelson says.
“So I did the exact opposite of what the social media experts said. It worked so well that the High Five - Wounded Warriors Family Support tour is still going strong today.“
That and other things led Mendelson to write his first book.
“It’s called ‘Social Media is BS,’ ” he says, using the family-approved version of the title which was published in 2012 by St. Martin’s Press.
“It never made the New York Times bestseller list, but it’s something of a cult classic. It sold really well.”
The book has been reprinted several times and translated into four languages.
He has since published a second book entitled “Privacy and How to Get it Back” which hit stores last November.
Mendelson, now 35, has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, the CBC, TechCrunch and in The Huffington Post.
In 2013, he had heart surgery to repair a mitral valve prolapse problem.
“I almost died during the ‘routine’ surgery,” he says. “I tried to have it fixed and ended up with a whole other set of issues.”
“But during recovery I decided to switch my focus to writing comic books,” he says, which led to the publication of “Vengeance, Nevada.”
“It’s just another superhero story,” he says.
“Then I wrote ‘A National Story of Minor Significance,’ " he says. “It is an autobiographical self-help book.”
So is he still famous?
“I am famous among certain crowds,” he says. “Not like Brad Pitt-famous, but I am known to the nerd and marketing crowds.”
“A lot of people really want to be famous, but I don’t really care,” he says.
“But I do want people to know what is happening to their data.”
Next week: How to protect yourself online.
John DeSanto is a freelance photojournalist. Find more of his 845LIFE stories, photos and videos at recordonline.com. Reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org