Meet Bill, the new online celebrity

Mr Eugeniu Croitoru (above) is the creator of Bill (left), which has inspired countless spoofs and imitations.
Mr Eugeniu Croitoru (above) is the creator of Bill, which has inspired countless spoofs and imitations. PHOTOS: EUGENIU CROITORU/FACEBOOK, BE LIKE BILL/FACEBOOK

Facebook users are likely to have come across Bill in the past weeks, a smiley-face stick figure who playfully dispenses advice on dealing with annoying behaviour.

Barely a month into the new year, Bill has easily become the biggest online viral craze. Based on the official Be Like Bill Facebook page, Bill has since inspired countless imitations and spoofs on social media in various languages and forms.

In Malaysia, he is Rashid or Babu, a South Asian form of address for a man. For Spanish speakers, he is Jose.

Bored of Bill? There are now Emily and Emma too.

Mr Eugeniu Croitoru is the creator of Bill (above), which has inspired countless spoofs and imitations.

If you cannot tolerate the guy, there is the Don't Be Like Bill meme.

So, who is Bill? He deals with everyday situations in a commonsensical way - the examples are stated in the text next to the figure.

For example, Bill does not shout at the television when a football game is taking place as he is aware that the players cannot hear him.

Neither does he post on Facebook that it is raining as he knows his friends can see for themselves. Most passages end with: "Bill is smart. Be like Bill."

Bill is the creation of Internet entrepreneur Eugeniu Croitoru, 23, who is a Moldovan based in Milan, Italy. He created Bill on the Facebook page of one of his websites, gaming community Videogamemes, last year.

Seeing how it quickly exploded in popularity, he set up a dedicated Be Like Bill Facebook page earlier this month. He says in an e-mail interview with The Sunday Times that he did not expect Bill to become so popular.

He thinks Bill caught on because "he's just the perfect fictional avatar that can give you the freedom to express opinions that might be too offensive to post using a real name".

Mr Croitoru manages the page - which has garnered almost 1.5 million likes - with his colleague, Debabrata Nath, 26. About 50 per cent of the ideas for posts are submitted by netizens.

He adds that they are in the process of securing the sole rights to use Be Like Bill.

In Singapore, government organisations and companies have jumped on the Bill bandwagon.

On their Facebook pages, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, Sengkang Neighbourhood Centre, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and online reservation system Chope Singapore have creatively made use of the meme to put across their messages.

While the SCDF cheekily reminds drivers to give way to a fire engine on the road, the CPF Board has Bill explaining why one should make a CPF nomination.

A CPF spokesman explains that the board makes use of online trends where appropriate to engage "Facebook fans and, at the same time, increase the public's awareness and understanding of CPF schemes".

Singapore humour site SGAG features the Be Like Seng versions.

In one post, Seng is honest with his friends about being late instead of saying he is on the way.

Not everyone is a fan of Bill. Anti-Bill pages have emerged condemning Bill as smug and boring.

Mr Croitoru's response to the backlash is: "Most of the negative comments are missing the point. They shouldn't take this so seriously.

"Bill is just a funny stick man... here to make people laugh and entertain them as well as bring out issues and instil good manners occasionally."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'Meet Bill, the newonline celebrity'. Print Edition | Subscribe