Looking back on the internet's biggest moments of 2014, it'd be hard to skip over Kane Zipperman, the Georgia teenager whose scathing texts to a girl who cheated on him with his best friend (as Zipperman tells it, anyway) went massively viral back in June, boosting him from 2,000 to 80,000+ Twitter followers overnight and landing him on CNN's HLN network:
A lot of people, including us, wondered if the exchange was fake; it seemed like something a young smartass would Photoshop together for fun and/or attention, especially the kind of smartass who appears to drink his own urine on YouTube (warning: super gross).
But Zipperman -- now a freshman at Kennesaw State University -- insists that his ex cheated on him, and that her family threatened him with legal action. Read ahead for his reflections on whether social media stardom is worth anything, the criticisms he's received, his doubts about pursuing comedy as a career and what his parents think about all of the "crazy sh--" he says.
MTV: Did the text message conversation with your ex actually happen, or did you make it up?
Zipperman: I'll swear on a bible if I have a chance to do it. Not one of those was fake; it was all real texts.
MTV: When did you first realize it was getting picked up by the media?
Zipperman: Actually Buzzfeed picked it up before CNN and everything. They had kept following me after I went viral because of me wearing the tiger shirt [at the US Masters golf tournament]. ... They put two and two together and said, "We have to jump on that!"
It's weird that all the articles ever made [about me] -- Huffington Post, Daily Mail, one was like "5 Facts About Kane Zipperman" -- they never talked to me. They just put the article out there. I always thought there was a process.
MTV: What was your experience like going on cable news?
Zipperman That was the most nerve-racking thing of all time. I was a little nervous from the start. You could see I settled in when I mentioned meth on live national television. My mom was standing behind the cameraman; she just put her palms on her forehead. I mean, it was pretty awesome.
One of the craziest parts about the whole thing, in the makeup room, Nancy Grace was sitting next to me. I’ve watched Nancy Grace my whole life -- my grandma’s a huge fan.
[Grace] is like, "What are you here for?" For the next 15 minutes, I made up story about how I was addicted to meth, and that's why I was on CNN. She was completely convinced I was addicted to meth -- she was, like, looking at me, feeling so much pity for me, asking questions: "How long have you been using? Have you been to rehab?"
She was going into the [studio] next to us when the show ended. When she saw the real reason [I was on TV], I had never seen a face that terrifying. She looked like she was going to slit my throat when I got off the set. It was so great to mess with such a large TV personality.
MTV: What was your fan-to-hater ratio?
Zipperman: People were saying "you're my hero," all that stuff. It was probably 75% to 25%, and 24% of them were girls saying "you're such a pig." That was for TV; for the text itself, it was probably more hate.
Most of the hatred was coming from people around my town. I'm not saying everyone in my town was hating me, but most of the people saying mean things were kids I used to play basketball with. I don't know if it was jealousy -- I don't know what there is to be jealous of. It was just a viral post. ... I just thought it was hilarious, not something people would be grieved about.
MTV: So many people strive for online fame, but that doesn't necessarily translate to any benefit in the real world. What's your take on it?
Zipperman: People set that bar up way too high. It’s so casual -- it’s pretty cool, it’s entertaining, I guess, but you're not Kim Kardashian. You're a D-list celebrity. People know you, but you're not going to walk into a restaurant in another state and people will want to take a picture. ... It’s not this huge grand thing; it’s not what everybody expects.
Multiple standup comedy clubs asked me to be on -- people told me my whole life I should do standup. It was hard to turn all these things down, but I always felt standup was such a challenging thing. I never felt I was fit to write jokes.
MTV: Is that something you want to do?
Zipperman: I would love to, I’m still thinking about it now, I might do that, but what the plan is, I’m in college to be a math teacher, the last thing anyone expects me to be!
I don’t know what school would hire me considering my past and my Twitter. That’s the plan, at least. [Math] is the only thing in life I’m good at.
There were book offers, but the problem was I'd have to give up the identity of my ex, and I've been threatened to be sued [if I did that]. ... Her parents threatened to sue. So, book deal and get sued, or no book deal and not get sued?
They went to talk about it with a judge, who said, "If he hasn’t said who she is yet, [you] can’t do anything about it." They tried to say it was public harassment on their daughter, but I never gave up who she was.
MTV: What was her reaction to it?
Zipperman: I met her face to face -- we still live near each other, we were both at Kroger -- and it was the weirdest, sketchiest moment of my life. I froze, dead silent. She walked up to me and was like, "So how've you... how've you..." I just started making bird noises in the middle of this Kroger.
I don't know if it was a humor thing, but I was trying to break the silence and I made bird noises and looked like an insane psychopath. Everyone was looking at me like I'd escaped from a mental institution -- I had to leave, I couldn't even buy the things I wanted to buy.
MTV: Did you ever talk to your best friend again?
No, no, no. They’re happily dating now, so that’s good. Nobody knows about this. They’re still together, it’s awesome. Definitely never talk to him.
MTV: Any other major surprises for us?
Zipperman: One of the things that’s happened because of the Twitter [following], I have been offered to do so many pornos ever since I turned 18. It was weirdo people at first, but then big companies. I was like, oh my god. The money they were offering was ridiculous. This porn star with 200,000 followers [offered] a paid flight and booking to a hotel room, like, "Stay with me."
MTV: What do your parents think of the stuff you put on the internet? "You're ruining your future"?
Zipperman: They have loved every minute of it! My mom just loved it all. I was down before that text [went viral], I was depressed. I’d found out I was cheated on. She saw [the difference] when I got the CNN phone call. It was awesome for all of us. They're just as crazy as I am. My mom and dad, they're like, "Keep it going! Keep saying crazy sh--!"
MTV: Did you tweet the same kind of jokes before viral fame as you do now?
Zipperman: I’m allowed to say things now that I wasn’t allowed to say before -- I used to seem crazy or weird, but now it’s normal for me to be tweeting these things.
I feel like if I were tweeting “about to go do meth” when I had 200 followers, then people would actually believe I was addicted to meth. But now that I have 83,000 followers … there’s a little bit of leeway there. When you don’t have that amount of followers, they’re like, “This kid is about to put harmful drugs into his body.”
I thought I would lose my followers [eventually]. I always thought it would die back down -- I didn't expect to still have my followers ... after the fame died down.
MTV: Have you moved on to a different girl?
Zipperman: I’m trying to say this without sounding like a complete douchebag, but with the Twitter following, many, many girls just flock to you. Girls who wouldn’t talk to me before. I’m trying to make it sound not as douchey as possible, but ... Twitter followers, it makes [you] attractive.
Yes, I am single, I guess you could say. I was in a relationship for two months, but it ended three weeks ago because a girl cheated on me again. I didn’t do any texts or anything, but you’d think, wouldn’t she learn from the first one who did that? That I would just annihilate her?
Update: Zipperman’s most recent ex tells MTV, "I would never cheat on anyone... he's a compulsive liar who craves social media attention," and accused him of making up his texts on Twitter. Zipperman responded, “The texts are real, end of story. ... [That girl] did not cheat on me. I was talking about the girl before her... I didn’t mean to say 3 weeks ago, I meant 3 months ago. My mistake.” She says, “That’s a lie. The girl he dated before broke up with him because her parents hated him and wouldn't let them date.” We have a headache.
Zipperman: Not everything I've tweeted should be taken seriously. I know that's a typical answer from someone who gets that, but I would never show hatred toward any woman unless they do something to me first.
I would never be hating someone for no reason. They would have to do something pretty intense. ... I try to be as respectful as possible to anyone, unless they do something to me.