Why should you be more like Bill?

  • 18 January 2016
Bill - a stick man Image copyright Eugeniu Croitoru
Image caption The original Be like Bill post

Bill who? No not Gates, Clinton or Cosby. Meet Bill, the stick man whose good example is taking the internet by storm.

"Be like Bill" urges the meme that is clogging up Facebook timelines with tongue-in-cheek advice about the correct way to behave online or how to handle other questions of modern etiquette.

Bill is far too polite to tell you straight out not to do something. Instead he leads by example. But the message is clear and often very funny.

The images first started appearing online late last year, but have surged in popularity in January, spurred on by a dedicated Facebook page simply called "Be like Bill" - which now boasts more than 1.25 million likes.

Here are a few examples.

Image copyright Eugeniu Croitoru
Image copyright Eugeniu Croitoru

BBC Trending asked the man behind the page, Eugeniu Croitoru, if he was anything like Bill.

"No, Bill is much better than me," says Croitoru, a Moldovan who lives in Milan and writes the cartoons with colleague Debabrata Nath. Croitoru, who has created a host of comedy Facebook pages, describes himself as an "internet entrepreneur". He's not making money out of the concept just yet, but hopes to in future. "The idea is very simple. 'Bill' can be anyone who is smart and has common sense and doesn't do annoying things. You'll also notice Bill can be someone who makes fun of himself and jokes about others too occasionally," he explains.

The meme's success is such that, quite independently of Croitoru, foreign variations are springing up seemingly daily. And in each one Bill has been renamed.

In Arabic he's "Bilal" or "Bashir".

Image copyright كن مثل بلال
Image caption 'This is Bilal. Bilal called his girlfriend, but she didn't pick up. Bilal waited for her to call him back, he didn't bombard her with calls and messages. Bilal is smart. Be like Bilal.'

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Image copyright Be Like Rashid / Facebook
Image caption 'This is Rashid. Rashid is Malay. Rashid is shopping in a Malay shop. Rashid doesn't ask for a discount using the phrase 'Malays help Malays'. Rashid isn't stupid. Rashid is smart. Be like Rashid.'

In Malaysia he's Rashid.

Image copyright Sé como José / Facebook
Image caption 'Jose is a university student. Jose studied hard and got a good grade. Jose knows he deserves it, and doesn't post a photograph of it on Facebook. Be intelligent. Be like Jose.'

And for Spanish speakers he's Jose.

While most incarnations of Bill are targeted squarely at online etiquette, some of them have taken on a political dimension.

One page imagined Bill as the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and reversed the joke to say "don't be like this".

Image copyright DontBelikeAssad / Facebook
Image caption 'Don't be like Assad' say critics of Syria's president

And now a backlash against Bill is underway, with entire pages aimed at knocking him off his perch.

Bill is arrogant, the pages claim - a narcissist and a snob who is too quick to impose his strict rules on others.

Image copyright Don't be like Bill or Emily / Facebook

What does Croitoru make of the parodies and the politicisation of the character? "I'm not annoyed. All I can say is that I made the idea popular with the intention of making something positive. Something that makes people laugh. It's not meant to be about politics."

Blog by Anisa Subedar

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