Friday, June 19, 2009

Dearly Beloved

The internet is a strange place. But here's the thing--it's not really a place. You can't really see people or know anything about their lives. So it's the perfect place to fake your death, just to see people's reactions.

Yep, apparently this happens a lot. Or at least enough for it to be a new kind of mental disorder--MBI, Munchausen by internet.

It makes sense. When people want attention for some tragic situation--terminal illness, abuse, etc.--it's difficult to keep up the charade in real life. You'd have to visit doctors, look sick, etc. But on the internet, no one knows you haven't lost your hair to chemo or been bed-ridden or lost several family members to this same, mysterious disease. You can just look up symptoms online and try to make your situation match. When you 'die,' there's an outpouring of grief, which can make you feel more loved than you would have in everyday life.

Unfortunately, this feeling of 'love' comes along with manipulating real people's real emotions. Sure, internet relationships potentially aren't as real as face-to-face ones, but lots of people do consider online relationships real. When people are regular posters on a forum, they feel a kinship with other regular posters. When someone fakes their death (and the truth comes to light), that kinship is taken away--along with any other sense of trust. If one beloved poster can actually be a heinous, selfish liar, what about the rest of us? Who can we trust online?

Also, it invalidates real deaths of people in online forums. Are the actually dead posters going to be doubted because a bunch of self-involved fakers want to play with people's emotions?

It's a really interesting article, though, and another odd facet of online life.

(Don't worry, Lady Face fans--I'm real and not going to fake my death any time soon.)