This photo went viral after the $580 million Powerball jackpot during the 11/28/12 Powerball draw. Arizona man, Nolan Smith, with some creativity and photoshop work, made millions of people believe his story and in turn over 2 million people shared this photo in hopes to win! The power of social media is unbelievable!
Savannah Morning News
By Jason Kendall
December 4, 2012
Nolan Daniels was just trying to prank a few of his Facebook friends. The 35-year-old software engineer from Arizona who’s unwittingly duped more than 2 million people into sharing his fake Powerball photo says he simply can’t believe it’s gone this far.
“It’s pretty crazy, pretty surreal,” Daniels said Tuesday in an interview with the Savannah Morning News, which first broke his improbable story Friday, when the photo had just 40,000 shares. It since has become one of the most shared items in the social media titan’s history.
In his Facebook post, Daniels holds a doctored Powerball ticket and claims to have won half of Nov. 28’s record $588 million lottery jackpot. The caption on the photo reads: “Looks like I won’t be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!”
When he came home from work Nov. 29, Daniels says, he saw a Facebook trickster with a similar message fool a few of his friends and decided to replicate the prank.
“I saw four friends sharing this picture,” Daniels explained. “It was one guy holding up a Photoshopped lottery picture that basically said the same thing as mine,” except it linked to that user’s Amazon product page.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty obvious marketing scheme,’” Daniels says. “’Are my friends really falling for this?’ It was pretty obvious it was fake.”
Daniels decided to make a phony lottery image of his own. In a few minutes, he dashed one off using Microsoft Paint – “I love reading about everyone giving me grief about my Photoshop skills … I wasn’t looking to make it authentic” – and posted it to Facebook on Thursday night.
“I went to bed, went to work (Friday) morning,” Daniels recalls, and his prank started slowly taking off. “It was up to 2,000 shares and I was like, ‘Wow, I never thought that would happen.’”
Daniels says he had a busy work day Friday and didn’t pay much attention to the Facebook post. Then some of his co-workers started talking.
“All of a sudden it took off – it was maybe mid-afternoon Friday,” he says. Then Daniels saw the photo jump by 20,000 shares in a matter of minutes. “My girlfriend was calling me saying, ‘Maybe you should take this down.’ My co-workers were saying, ‘This might break some kind of record.’ So I was like, OK, let’s see what happens.”
As the photo spread to more than 100,000 users, Daniels said, he became inundated with Facebook friend requests and private messages asking for support.
“I just couldn’t keep up.”
Daniels says he had a busy work day Saturday that didn’t give him time to sort through everything that was happening. The photo steamrolled past 1 million shares, then past 2 million.
“I have been kinda just laying low,” he admitted Tuesday night. “I was trying to think of an idea before talking to anyone in the media.
“I wanted to take one of those hardship stories somebody had emailed me,” Daniels says, “and turn this into a positive thing to really help somebody.”
Though he regrets he doesn’t have $1 million to give away, Daniels says, he hopes to use his brief fame “to help just one person.”
Daniels says he spent “all day Sunday and Monday” sorting through the comments and messages he’s received, trying to find a cause where he feels he can make a difference. Monday night, he settled on a Facebook user named Brooke Reeves-Charlton. She and her daughter both suffer from a rare brain disorder called Chiari malformation, which is genetic and causes severe headaches, fatigue, impaired coordination and paralysis.
What stood out to Daniels about Reeves-Charlton – who also volunteers with the American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project (ASAP), a nonprofit that helps Chiari victims and their families – is that she told him she’d use part of the $1 million to pay off her medical debts and then donate the rest to ASAP.
Daniels says he’s still working with lawyers to determine how he can raise money for Reeves-Charlton and her daughter individually, by setting up an online fund and soliciting donations.
“I can’t just go on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy who fooled you – please give me $1 to help this other person,’” he admits.
Till then, Daniels hopes that anyone who reads this will consider donating $1 or more to help victims of Chiari and their families at http://www.asap.org, the certified nonprofit’s website.
“The whole weekend was tough because I wanted to do this idea but I didn’t know how to go about it the right way,” Daniels says.
Daniels is still astonished by how far his Facebook photo spread, but he says it’s the individual pleas for help that will stay with him.
“You’re reading these real stories from these real people with this real sense of hope – I never imagined anything like that would happen.”
Tuesday night, Daniels had a wish of his own.
“If I could get half of the people who shared that photo to donate even $1, we could raise $1 million for this great cause.”
UPDATE 11:30 p.m.: Raising awareness of Chiari malformation is also near to his heart, Daniels says, because two people close to him have suffered from similar issues. His high school friend Becky Heston Schnee, who is Facebook friends with Reeves-Charlton, has faced the challenges of Chiari in her life, Daniels says. And his brother, Derek, suffered a brain injury in 2008.
“I had a head injury almost five years ago,” Derek Daniels, who also lives in Arizona, said late Tuesday via email. “I was lucky to recover … though it was not expected. It took more than a couple years until I felt like myself again. I’ve lost some dear friends.”
Derek, too, wanted to share his story with you.
“If you have the ability to help someone out, you do it,” he added.
“It’s sad when unfortunate things happen to good people like my brother, Becky and Brooke,” Nolan Daniels said.