Wednesday, April 22, 2009

not exactly

I suppose that most people are fairly honest, but I've always been fascinated by the few who, well, lie. Especially those who spin elaborate webs of public deception. In the last few months, I've noticed a couple of incidents in which people online have pretended to have lost children, leaving the people who believed and befriended them feeling shocked and betrayed.

One of the most famous internet hoaxes occurred about seven or eight years ago, back when blogs were still a relatively new and exotic phenomenon. Kaycee Nicole, purportedly a college student, kept a cheerful inspirational blog called In Living Colour, describing her ongoing battle with leukemia. Kaycee's mom, Debbie, started a companion blog, sharing her feelings about taking care of her desperately ill daughter. Kaycee and Debbie attracted a huge following, fans who sent cards, gifts and contributions.

After spending several years in treatments of various kinds, all of which were described in vivid detail on the blogs, Kaycee seemed to have finally beaten the cancer. Debbie wrote a touching Mother's Day post expressing her joy. However, the very next day, Debbie reported that Kaycee had unexpectedly suffered an aneurysm and died.

There was an enormous outpouring of support from the online community. However, as gaps and contradictions in Debbie's story appeared, people slowly began to wonder if Kaycee had ever actually existed.

Ultimately, Debbie admitted that she had invented the entire story -- there was no Kaycee, no cancer, the whole thing had been a gigantic hoax. (and, parenthetically, I have to say that it's pretty impressive that Debbie not only maintained an ongoing fraud for years, but did it using a dial-up connection.) In her last post to the online community confessing what she had done, Debbie ended by saying: "The last thing I want to do is say that I'm sorry."

I'm sure she meant it in more ways than one.

Have you ever read someone's story on a blog or forum (no names, please) and suspected that it was was, well, not exactly true? What made you suspicious? And what do you think motivates people like this?

72 comments:

Wordgirl said...

Hi Niobe,

You know, I actually have, once -- and I can't tell you what alerted me -- it was almost instinctual -- just reading it and feeling as if something was amiss, but then I really didn't give credence to my feelings and felt like a monster for even doubting it -- I'll never know for certain, and its so sad knowing there are so many true, honest, heartbreaking stories of loss and trauma...

I think that those people must feel small and unimportant and that the glow of attention is so seductive to them they can't resist it?

Ick.

Love,

Pam

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Once, when I was going to meet a blogger face-to-face, my sister asked how I knew that it was really a 30-something woman doing IVF and not a 14-year-old boy playing a hoax. I didn't have a good answer except for a gut-instinct that someone wouldn't take the time to write out a full blog about numerous IVF cycles if it wasn't true. But now I see differently (I read about the Names in the Sand thing recently--I didn't know about the Kaycee story).

Though, in my case, the person was exactly who she said she was and was wonderful and I guess that's why I take the risk and open my heart and connect. Though I've never suspected that a person was being disingenuous with their story. But I wonder if I just take everything as truth until told otherwise.

Amanda said...

Honestly, before today, I never imagined people like this. How naive am I? I am just sick that people even for one moment would consider faking the death of a child just for attention or for a photo of something pretty to hang on their wall. I am honestly so sick and disturbed I just don't know what to do with myself.

Thank you, though, for pointing this out. From time to time I'm contacted off the blog or off other threads about my loss or about the cerclage I now have. I've always just trusted that the pain on the other end of the e-mail or phone line is legitimate, and while it probably generally is, I may be a bit more reserved in the future.

Magpie said...

I'm kind of bewildered by that kind of behavior - I tend to be exacting in the things that I write, so I assume that everyone else is too...

daisies said...

i am shocked by this actually and can't really understand why someone would do this. i find it very sad. in that first year after my babies died, i found it really healing to talk about my grief on my blog but at the end of the day, that loss, that grief is so incredibly isolating and what someone would actually get out of pretending, ugh, it leaves a kind of sick feeling in my stomach actually.

i too am kind of bewildered ...

Casey said...

OMG, that names in the sand scam. WTF? Beyond the horribleness of taking advantage of someone else's kindness and appropriating other families' tragedy, there is a real creepiness factor to consider. I'm not even a superstitious person, and I can't imagine wanting to hang in my home a picture I obtained by claiming my children were dead. I think it would make me paranoid about whole reaping what you sew business. Eee.

As for your question, yes. There is one particular blog I read where I know the author is full of shit. I keep reading to try and figure out if she's trying to con her readers or if she truly believes her own falsehoods. I haven't come to any conclusions yet.

Deshaine said...

I didn't believe your story was real.

sometimes I still wonder.

Rebecca said...

There was a huge hoo-hah on LiveJournal a few years ago about a girl who pretended she'd died in a car crash. She ran the LiveJournal secrets community (a bit like Postsecret) and there was sooo much wank over it.

LAS said...

I'm shocked that someone would do that. I guess I've never thought about it when reading a blog - I've never questioned it. But I wonder if I will now.

Anonymous said...

I am a little cautious these days. Someone I know well (now) told me rubbish but only because the truth was so so much worse and I don't think she could find the words and she needed the comfort. A little nuts yes, but understandable I believe. As for people who pretend to be an inhabitant of DBL, I think it's to be part of the community and receive the grace and generosity of support. Of course, the irony is obvious...

Frau said...

Call me a meanie because I have been known to point out obvious lies. I try and be judicious if it just feels funny. But when there are obvious holes in the "plot" I point them out.

I don't mean that someone's name changes - hey we all change names and minor details on the internet and sometimes forget.

I mean the whole story changes to improve the pathos, sharpen the one-up-man-ship, or dramatize the shock value.

Most of the time I catch this because they post "customized" versions of the tale on multiple sites. Each version speaks to what will get the regulars at that particular site to react the most.

I actually feel no need to feed that sort of manipulation. If I doubt, I will refrain from contributing. If I have proof, I've been known to share it. I know, I'm a bitch.

Motel Manager said...

I don't actually think that this particular case was a lie, but for some reason the situation made me realize that someone COULD do this, either for weird, selfish reasons or as, like, a literary experiment. The blog that made me think it will be easy for those who read it to identify, but it was by a woman who discovered cancer after she'd tried to have a baby. It was so beautifully written -- one of the best blogs and best memoir-type writing I've ever seen. Out of respect for her privacy, her family took it down after she died.

Now, let me reiterate that I don't think this particular blog was a fake, but those circumstances made me realize you COULD create a fake narrative online and get a lot of real support and lots of people to follow your story. I'm sure there are JT LeRoys all over the Internet.

Lori said...

That's some baaaaaad juju to make such claims.

I always think that if I call in sick without actually being sick, I will get sick.

Baaaaad juju.

Anonymous said...

I've seen similar posts at MDC message boards that seem a little off to me, especially by newer members that have less than 10 or 20 posts. It's sad but I guess for whatever reason these people need the attention in their life so they fake a baby. :-(

Martha said...

Here from Lost and Found and luckily until I heard about the Names in the Sand B.S, I hadn't really thought folks would stoop that low. Gut instinct can be very accurate. Thanks for the great post!

Tash said...

The thing that really pissed me about what happened to Carly was that I felt it invalidated the feelings of everyone who had honestly gone through the trauma. (The good news there was that the liar outright admitted she was lying, so it was an easy catch -- and she was doing it for a screensaver or whatever, no less). I can't imagine what Carly felt, but I know I felt pretty small to think that someone could take this enormous thing that's caused me so much stress and distress and wad it in a tiny ball and spit it out for some selfish means. As though it was nothing, as though my child was nothing. And I've had enough of people in my real life stepping on the memory of my child, thank you, so the invisible people online can leave well enough alone. I can't imagine having a child battling cancer and then finding out someone is merrily going along faking it -- I imagine the same sense of erasure would apply.

I'm always mystified at the anons who criticize grieving mothers ("You're hurting your live children!"), but I'm wondering if it's not a symptom of the same problem. Some sense that if it happened to them, they could do it better. They could write about it better, or live it better, or dole out compassion better. Some kinda sick sense of egoism. I'm also getting rather overwhelmed (now that I'm here) by the number of authors and screenplay writers who use babydeath as a plot device or character factor. I wonder some consider it a holy grail of poetic injustice and sympathy, and wonder what it would feel like to really be there.

Of course I could tell them it fucking sucks, but they're clearly not listening.

Kymberli said...

There is actually one blog which had/has me wondering. She hasn't written in months and only wrote for a few month's time, but there was something that just seemed...questionable about her story. Maybe what she said really happened. Maybe it didn't. Still, I wonder.

As a moderator of Surrogate Mothers Online, I've seen a few cases over the years of people who join the message boards and spin these elaborate, realistic tales. They get by with it for months and get many people emotionally hooked when the "issues" start cropping up. Somewhere along the lines, they'll forget which falsehood they told several months before, more wires continue to get crossed, and people begin to wonder.

As moderators of an online environment where such serious, intimate connections are being made, we're often the filter that has to shield the rest of the honest community from scammers and liars who try to take advantage.

Last summer, some nutcase was finally outed when her stories just got too wild and unrealistic. She has been a member of SMO for over a year, and people supported her from the very start when she was trying to match with intended parents straight up through her 32nd week of a surrogacy pregnancy with twins. That's when things started sounding off. She had bouts of preterm labor, hospital bed rest, issues with being a single parent because her husband was deployed, etc. People rallied around her and began sending things like gift cards or things for the children. She also spun the tale that her IPs were neglectful in paying her compensation, so there was also the problem of having a horrible surrogacy journey.

Eventually, much of what she said about the medical aspect of her troubled pregnancy just wasn't making sense. I did some digging online, and through basic searches, I found two other message boards where she was spinning similar, yet equally twisted tales. On a rather large, popular military spouse message board, she was actively posting about her troubled pregnancy with a singleton (albeit on that board she was around 28 weeks along and not 32), it was HER child and surrogacy was never mentioned. Participants of that message board were also beginning to call her out on some of her posts. The other mods and I contact the administrator of that board and were able to confirm that both posters were one and the same person and that she was clearly a rather nasty troll.

Why do people do it? No life? Some odd form of computer-based Munchhausen Syndrome? Not enough cookies and stickers in their childhoods? Who the flip knows?

Wabi said...

There is one blog I read now where the transformation taking place in the life of the author is coming at a fast and almost effortless pace. I suspect the author is, at best ... an unreliable narrator. No way things could have been so bad before without emotional baggage that would cause seconding-guessing and whatnot now. And at worst, the author is making up the story entirely.

But, I don't really care. As long as it is good fiction, I'll read anyhow.

Aurelia said...

Well, I don't know, it is very hard to tell what's what online. I do know that after all these years as a bereaved mom and confirmed political cynic that when I've met someone in real life, I can tell if they are lying.

Deschaine, I've met Niobe in real life, and so have other bloggers. So rest assured, she's real and so is her story!

That said, we could be anybody, and it's right to be a skeptic. Although I do think it takes a special bit of crazy to pretend your kid is dead for attention, and that is rare; I actually do know that at least one blogger out there is purposely exaggerating shit in her life just to up her click rate. I know because I know people who know more about her and she really does create the drama, you know?

But I figure, why be an asshole and tell the world? Fuck it--I have enough issues of my own to deal with.

And likely someone doesn't believe half of what I write---too bad.

No one forces people to read blogs. We can all just click away if we don't want to read someone.

unexplainthis said...

Here from Lost and Found. There was one woman on a message board that always seemed to be having one truama after another. I never took her seriously.

Then, I posted about my miscarriage and sure enough a week later she posted that she didn't know she was pg (it was an infertility message board, wth?) and she had miscarried. And, oh my, she was so upset, and needed support, etc.

Now, if she really had a miscarriage I feel for her. But it was just to convenient that it happened so close after mine and that she didn't know she was pg.

Anyway, I stopped going to open forums. I gathered the girls I was close with and still keep in touch.

We take a leap accepting someone's words as truth. Personally, I'm glad that we do. I have met so many wonderful people online and consider them true friends. I think most of the people that lie are very sad in their lives and need the "support" that their lies bring them.

It's the harsh side of reality of being online.

Wabi said...

Dropping back in to mention that I am part of an online support group that is not public. Members can create whatever user name they want when posting messages, but but they must provide real names, locations, and certain key details about their loss to an admin, who then checks out the details for plausibility before anyone gains membership. That way people can feel reassured that they are giving support to real people under true circumstances.

Despite all these precautions we had someone infiltrate the group under false pretenses a few years back. No lost baby at all -- she was just there to soak up sympathy and cause a little trouble. She was discovered fairly quickly and kicked out, but the mere fact she went to such lengths to get in was very upsetting to a lot of people. It was a breach of trust, and changed the way a lot of longtime members interacted with newer members. It was pretty sad to watch.

But blogs ... I guess due to the public nature of most of them, I feel they are different story than a lying troll on a private site. You really are going on blind faith at the get-go, when it comes to blogs.

tragicoptimist said...

Also here from LFCA. Back in 2004 (? maybe 2005) I was a member of one of the popular ttc message boards. There was a woman who posted about a pregnancy that she lost very late. Lots of details, u/s pictures, even pictures of the baby. Women were sending cards and gifts and flowers to her hospital room. And then some other women started pointing out discrepancies with her story. It turns out that she had had something similar happen a few years previously, and then she wrote a slightly different version on the message board - where she had also written about her previous loss. I suspect she never really got the support she needed from her first loss and that's what she was looking for.

I'm with Kym, it seems like a lot of the cases are Munchausen - or maybe Munchausen by Proxy - made easier with the Internet. Seems like a dissertation in the making for someone.

The ones that really upset me are people who steal images from other people's blogs and pass them off as their own. I believe a number of micro-preemie blogs have had that happen. Sick.

Aunt Becky said...

So you're saying your name ISN'T niobe?

No, seriously now. I've only came across one blog (so far) that really made me say "you're so full of shit." I'd been directed there from another blogger. Apparently this guy had a roadside accident and had FOR SOME REASON already written his obit/goodbye post. Come ON.

I hadn't heard about the Kaycee thing before. Totally fascinating.

CLC said...

I have not encountered this on blogs, to my knowledge, but I did have a friend in college who spun elaborate lies about her best friend dying after a relative of my roommate's died. I believed her at first, but as the days went on things didn't add up. I finally called her on it and she admitted she did it for the attention when she saw how much attention my roommate got. We were no longer friends after that. I think it's just a sick need for attention and that something must have seriously went wrong in her life somewhere along the way. Maybe not, but I don't know how else to explain this type of behavior.

Maggie said...

I don't consider myself naive, but I will say that I never in a million years guessed that people would do something like that. In hindsight, I don't know why I was surprised - there are so many messed up people in the world - but still.

It seems so very wrong to play upon someone's grief and misery that way... The people who do that are clearly hurting, but that doesn't make it right...

G$ said...

There are a couple of blogs I wonder about but as Wabi said, meh, it's still good reading for now. As long as they don't suddenly ask for support in any financial way.

People are strange. I have been an online gamer for over 10 years and the people I run into are weird, really weird. Really strange lies too, one woman was beaten by her husband, then next month was pregnant and he was trying to beat the babies out of her. Shortly after, she had twins prematurely, one of them died, one lived. Then she dropped out of the community, turns out she was a teenager (she or he) and was cut off from the game by her mom for bad grades... Well, maybe that story isn't real either.

Weirdness.

angie said...

Does it mean that I'm a goodie good that I feel simultaneously nauseated and terrified by this post? I guess I am totally naive.Never would I have considered that the blogs I have been reading were fabricated for attention. I am sickened. Literally, and a little shaky. (I am a little delicate these days.) I am absolutely stunned by the idea that anyone would make suffering up. But it does seem like a kind of Munchausen by hyperlink proxy. I am a SUCK-ER.

I had never read Carly's situation in February, and I cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to pretend that their child died. I mean, that is like bad juju times infinity...it is freaking me out, honestly.

FattyPants said...

I guess I'm a bit naive because I have the hardest time believing that someone would write that they had lost a child or had cancer when they didn't. Talk about some bad ass karma.

I must have missed something, now I'm off to find out about this names in the sand thing.

niobe said...

FattyP: There's a link to the names in the sand thing in the post. (click on the word "pretended") or, just click on this link.

Basically, Carly offered to write the names of lost children on the beach and take photos of the names in the sand. Some sick people decided that they wanted one of these lovely photos featuring the names of their own children, who were very much alive.

Undeterred, they just emailed the names to Carly saying that their children had been "born sleeping."

Artblog said...

Firstly what you just said above is bloody sick, if they want a picture of the names on a beach why don't they do it themselves?

I remember you and I having this conversation the first time we met, and I'm still the same, as with Mel when she says, just take everything as truth until told otherwise, which is perhaps naive but if you start doubting everyone, it gets too much like hard work.

Still, its highly interesting to read these stories and everyone comments, there are some weird people in the world!

angie said...

niobe, now a question to you, what do we do as a community against policing these kinds of hoaxes? like what artblog and mel said we all take people at their word, but a betrayal on top of our losses just seems like too much to bear right now. considering it even shakes me up...is there an underground suspected faker list circulating? also, what prompted this post?

niobe said...

Angie: I've actually had this post in draft form for a long, long time. I've always been fascinated by these kind of frauds, ever since one of the women on one of the very first forums I ever read, many years ago, turned out to be a fake.

Most immediately, what prompted this post was the fact that yesterday, Sherry wrote about being fooled by a woman on a forum who pretended to have lost two babies. (There's a link to Sherry's post if you click on the words "lost children" in my post).

You raise a good question. Unfortunately, there are probably plenty of these hoaxes that go undetected because it's almost impossible to prove that someone isn't telling the truth.

I think that, philosophically, you have to decide which path you prefer to take. Like Artblog and Mel, you can choose to trust most people most of the time and accept the fact that, once in a while, you'll be fooled.

Alternatively, you can take a sceptical attitude towards much of what you hear or read and assume that a lot of what people say is, intentionally or unintentionally, exaggerated or distorted or just plain untrue. In case you hadn't guessed, the latter would be my usual approach.

Kathy McC said...

I have never personally caught someone in an online hoax, but I have suspected one blogger in the past. I read her blog for a while and even reached out to her, offering my email address. She never responded to me. I wonder if it was out of protection of privacy, or because she didn't want anyone to know that her story might not be totally true. It just seemed like there was WAY to much shit going on in her life. Kind of far-fetched.

It makes me sick that people do things like this. I have met so many wonderful people through the internet since I lost my babies, and I would hate to think that someone had taken me for a ride during the most vulnerable time of my life.

Sarah said...

Interesting and sad. I haven't come across it in the loss blogs I read (I read, but don't often comment and my blog is not about loss, though I read them having lost 3 babies before having a healthy daughter last year).

But, in the online knitting community, this happened recently. A woman who supposedly got sick and died resurfaced under different names and accounts. She died owing people money and items from her Etsy store.

The sad part is, I think it mostly is symptomatic of mental illness.

Kristin said...

Oh yeah...I was sucked in and taken for a ride. I was a community leader on an iVillage pregnancy board (it was then ParentsPlace). A woman who was part of our Dec 00 group supposedly lost twins a year or so later. She was in such bad shape that 3 of us traveled to her home state to help her out. Things got really weird when we got there and the visit got cut short. Also, there was a supposed member of the Dec00 board that supposedly died in childbirth. This "member" used the name dreammommy (an infamous ParentsPlace hoax). Well, after this member "lost" the twins. A few other members and I started talking and put 2 and 2 together. We figured out the member faked losing twins, lied about having a hysterectomy, and then forgot she had lied and pretended to be pregnant again. That member turned out to also be behind the whole dreammommy fake. She cyberstalked a few of us for a little while. The only reason I can figure for this behavior is a need for attention.

charmedgirl said...

over on a big triplet forum, it happens all the time. people pretend to be pregnant with/have triplets to get responses, and sometimes get MONEY and STUFF. i usually get there in time to read all the drama but never sleuth around or anything, just like rubber-necking...

wheelsonthebus said...

because i am a cynic, i never send money in these cases... the comments here have been fascinating.

Alexicographer said...

It's an interesting question. If improbably bad outcomes were enough to raise doubt in my mind, I'd be quite sure Akeeyu didn't exist, and yet, I'm quite sure she does (whether I'm right or not I leave to the reader...).

On the other hand, and as much as I hate to say it, it's one of the deadbaby mamas (emphatically not you) whose truths I doubt. It's hard to say exactly why, gut feeling, I guess. And it would be wildly disturbing to learn I'm right, yet, yet ...

Anonymous said...

This happened to me once. Back in 97-99. I met this girl, we were great friends, then it all started to unravel. The thing is, after it all came out in the wash, (and her story is more elaborate than you could imagine, involving made up child loss, major physical sexual and emotional abuse (which may or may not have been made up etc)) I decided I wanted to meet her anyway. And I did, she spent 10 days with me. I loved who she was even more than I loved who she'd pretended to be. And while there was anger (sometimess still is) I forgave her, moved on...and actually I understand.

Not that it's ever right to do something like that, but for me, this internet lying thing is compairable to why people try suicide. I think sometimes the pain is just so terrible you want it to stop (be it from killing yourself, or pretending your someone else entirely, maybe someone else that you think has the right to hurt the way you do, maybe someone stronger, someone people will admire and look up too, and talk frequently about how strong you are). This girl, whom I love and consider to be one of my greatest friends ever, has a lot of mental pain. Sure, she could have shared herself, but if she had, would I have understood? I don't know, maybe, but maybe not.

What she did (and what all of these people do) isn't right, but I'm not right all the time. I screw up a lot, and have hurt people, terribly. I guess it's just all relative, and whatever our story is, we have to keep things in perspective. We all hurt sometimes.

Yeah, I got hurt, I cried for days. I was so angry at her. I felt so stupid for beliving her and even more stupid for the nights I sat up all night with her crying over her pretend dead baby, or the candles/memory necklace I sent her or the balloons I released to heaven on her pretend dead daughters day.

But still I believe, what's the worst that could happen? That I love someone who isn't who they say they are. I give of myself? I get screwed again? Oh well. My baby taught me to love with my whole heart on the outside. I won't forget. I won't let him down. I won't live in a cave because sometimes life hurts. I won't.

Lisa b said...

When I started reading blogs I expected to come across much more of what you described - the intentional or unintentional exaggerations or lies but I have been very surprised. I've met most of the people I read, or at least have met people who know them so I think that plays part.

I am totally disgusted that someone would take advantage of Carly's generosity. What a sicko.

Jay said...

Gosh, this post got me thinking. Being a very honest person myself (I believe if you lie, things just get too hard to handle at the very least - lies cover lies and liars find themselves in sticky spots!) I sometimes don't see a liar coming.

It's especially shocking when you find out someone has been telling "big" lies, you know? It is also confusing to me, because we're always told to "put ourselves in other people's shoes" - but in the case of a sick, compulsive liar, one cannot, because one cannot truly understand why they would do such a thing on a first person basis.

It must be something to do with a mental issue, honestly, because as others have said, actually *wanting* to be part of this group of people would clearly not be something a mentally normal person would subscribe to!

I don't know if I've ever actually been emotionally draw in by a hoax, but I have on occasion thought that there have been exaggerations in people's stories. Interesting stuff. Ah well - you have to feel sorry for these people, because they are not living the truth. I am grateful for my life because while it hasn't been easy lately, it's taught me such a lot, and opened many doors.

Carly Marie said...

I have been talking about this sor of thing with Gal lately. She always brings a good light into any situation for me.

At the end of the day, there are always going to be liars. But really they are such a small percentage of this grieving community. I almost feel sorry for these people. What is so lacking in there life that they have to invent a tragedy for themselves. In some cases like that woman who disguised her self as one of us to get a sunset photo its just laziness and pure greed. Others though, just attention.

I am regret not coming in here lately Niobe. I am sorry for that. I have not read many blogs in the last few weeks. I feel like the only time at the moment I have is after midnight;)

Love to you and what a great eye opening post!

P.S Angie,

I would not worry too much;) The blogs I see your comments on... they are all real :)

Which Box said...

I have had people directly question if I was telling the truth. I keep my blog as anonymous as possible, so a few things get a little fudgy around the edges (honestly: teaching astronauts as a substitute for what I really do?!), and then there was a whole lotta stuff that happened that really did seem like a giant cluster of crap. And I am very, very vague on the particulars of my story of loss, for deeply personal reasons (I write to get it out, but not ready- may never be ready - to get it all out). So I understand and don't mind when I'm questioned (though not quite sure how to prove I'm real!).

I do find these stories fascinating, and have dug into a few. The gay single dad who stole someone from this community's words and pictures? Led me to discover new writers in a new community. But the names in the sand. That's just so.....distasteful doesn't even begin to cover it. Repellent.

I will, on occasion, think, hmm, this would be a very good fiction story. But I think that's more stepping away from the story and intellectually thinking about writing/narrative. Or I'm that cynical. One or the other.

Monica H said...

I'm an honest person so I take people at their word, however there is one blog I read that has me in question. Mostly because other friends of mine who also read it question it's integrity. If their story is overly sad or happy it just seems...false.

Who really knows?

painted maypole said...

are you trying to tell us you've been lying all this time??

;)

no.... actually, I've never encountered that, or really felt like I was being lied to. maybe because I stick to smaller blogs. i think people who do that are looking for a big audience, and the assurance they get from it

Anonymous said...

Ive come across it a few times. My daughter has Type 1 diabetes and I belong to an online group of parents of children with diabetes. Every few months someone comes on there claiming to have a child recently diagnosed or that has had diabetes for some time and is doing poorly. Some of them are pretty convincing, they have done their homework, but they always seem to have HUGE problems, one right after another, no insurance, trouble getting insulin, and any time someone suggests they contact this person or that person, the faker always has an extensive list of why they cant or why that wont work. Something always just seems a little off about them, and eventually they forgot what they have already said and trip themselves up. A lot of the time when someone starts to question them, some other relative or friend pops up to defend them too.

B said...

I've read warnings about this. I did have odd feelings about one person I used to be in contact with on a forum - the tone of her writing switched so easily from dramatic story to really mundane ramblings that I felt quite confused reading it.

Anyway, wiki has a good little definition with notes on how to detect munchausen via internet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munchausen_by_Internet

B said...

i'm thinking Fight Club - you know how HBC and was it Edward Norton(?) meet because they are support group addicts. Funny in a movie.

akeeyu said...

I always suspect that my blog is fake, because seriously, what else can go wrong with me, medically? Even *I* find it improbable.

Personally, I suspect that eventually my head will fall clean off my shoulders, making blogging nearly impossible, and that will be the end of that.

Christine said...

wow. i've never come across someone's blog that seemed an actual lie. but i can be sort of naive about trusting people sometimes.

Andrea said...

I'm with akeeyu--I find so much of my own story improbable that, often, I just keep it to myself b/c I don't want to deal w/ people who may not believe me, and won't know how to say it. As a matter of fact just yesterday I had a huge misunderstanding w/ someone b/c he assumed my offhand remark about getting a death threat over Frances's size was a joke. (It wasn't.)

so I try to be generous and open to being fooled. I've been on the receiving end of misplaced skepticism, and ouch.

I do know one good weirdo story, though--a nanny pretended that the boy she was looking after was hers. Took photos of them, cribbed someone else's posts, had a whole copy blog and--get this--turned the baby into a girl and pretended to breastfeed it when meeting up with other online mom friends. Eww eww eww.

Not intending to terrify anyone here who hires nannies. I'm sure it's a very small percentage who are so unbalanced.

Shinny said...

There was a girl on a miscarriage support board I was on who I doubted some of what she posted. I left that board after her 13th miscarriage in a year and a half. Not because of her but other issues. So sometimes I do wonder if what I am reading is real or fiction. Just makes me feel sorry for the people who are making it up. And pissed because it puts doubts in people's minds about those of us who have experienced loss.
I sometimes feel like a fraud myself because my losses were so early and I read about other's losses so late in a pregnancy or even at or after the birth.
I just post whatever I feel the need to complain about these days though and swear alot. ;)
I do wonder what motivates people to do those things though.

leanne said...

Absolutely appalling. I really feel for Carly... being used that way. Just sick and wrong.

I never really thought about doubting what I've read on blogs. Perhaps a few rare instances, but I'd like to believe people are honest (yeah, I can be naive sometimes). And like some of the others, my own story strikes me as a little surreal.

Anonymous said...

I married a hoaxster.

Seriously. I decided to spend the rest of my life with someone who lied, lied, lied. Told me all sorts of shit that wasn't true. Spun elaborate stories. Wrote beautiful emails. I was in love. I cyberstalked him and turned up on his doorstep one day as a surprise, and the whole house of cards came crashing down.

And you know what I discovered? An incredibly brilliant, kind, loving person, who was stuck in a genuinely lousy-ass life studded with genuinely shattering loss and abuse -- the kind of loss and abuse that's harder to tell a stranger than the fake kind.

Nearly fifteen years later, the lies are a distant memory, and I can't imagine being with anyone else. If he had to lie to get me, then I'm glad he did, because we have a house, kids and dogs together. He is kind and gentle and makes me laugh every single day. He doesn't lie any more.

A long way of saying: the hoax is detestable, but often the hoaxster is translating genuine pain into the language a particular environment can understand. Sometimes it might be easier to say "my baby died" than "my father molested me every night for seven years".

I have never regretted forgiving a hoaxster and digging deeper to find the person underneath. My pride was hurt, but I gained everything.

Aurelia said...

Ok, now I'm even more amazed that I even write my blog, because like Akeeyu, I can't actually believe that everything that has happened to me, HAS happened to me.

Like right now? Things are shit. Things I can't really discuss, even on an Anon blog, and I'm tired of being so negative so I'm just blogging less, instead of writing about every single awful thing.

I wish it was fake. FML, I wish!

Speaking of that, have you ever heard of that website?

http://www.fmylife.com/

Now that's bad.

Virginia said...

I don't think I've ever come across a fake blog, though I've had a few suspicions here and there. I don't get it, never will, why someone would want to fake a deadbaby. Really. It is a mental sickness beyond anything I can fathom. But I tend to believe people are honest, and IRL, that has come back to bite me in the butt more than once.

Furrow said...

Sometimes I wish I could be a little less real on my blog. Just to make myself a little more exciting. But I can't. Because I'm not.

But yeah, some people are seriously messed up. i'd like to think they've been injured somehow, themselves.

Rebecca said...

Reading these comments as a suicide survivor rather than a child-loss survivor I wonder whether anyone ever doubted my story. It'd be a great piece of fiction. Sadly, I actually have to live it.

Hennifer said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. why?
disgusting

Karin said...

I find it hard to believe my own story so I can imagine that someone reading it would wonder the same. It has been a bit of a fear of mine actually - that someone will think I'm a fraud. But all I can do is try to be myself (a hard enough task!)

In real life I had a woman at a pottery class tell me to my face that she didn't believe me. Firstly, doing the class was a bad move at the time, it was filled with mothers talking about their children. I hadn't realized. I thought, naively, that it would be about making pots. I didn't contribute a word for 9 weeks and then on the final week, this woman asked me, "So do you have any children??" I told her about my dead ones. She said, "I don't believe you. That could not happen. They must have all died for the same reason. My husband is a doctor. I'm going to ask him if this is even possible." I think she added a "Haaruumph" at the end of that. I simply waved my hand and said, "Be my guest" and went back to turning on the wheel. Next session, I was dying to ask her, "So did you talk to your husband about me?" But I didn't. I still felt too shocked. She did not offer any feedback if she did - completely ignored me. Hopefully, her husband put her in her place. I finished the course with the satisfaction of throwing a pot better than she could. Dumb bitch.

I had one on-line person fool me for years. But you know what, when I finally learned the truth, I didn't feel betrayal as much as I felt vindicated. All along my instincts were true! Honestly, it was like my head finally cleared and I perfectly, happily walked away.

On the forum that I help to admin, the people who turn out to be hoaxes often will have claimed to have multiple losses - which I find particularly upsetting. Like one just isn't enough of a story?? It really burns me up. But there is a formulaic approach to the telling of the stories, and a pattern to the escalations. Eventually, they get caught. We hand validate, asking for specific information. It does help I think.

This kind of stuff always makes me think of Fight Club. I think there is a book out there waiting to be written. If I knew how, I'd do it!

I'm not sure what motivates people. Perhaps it is the detachment from social boundaries that the internet can provide for some. I always think of that Far Side comic with the dog sitting in front of a computer with the caption, "On the internet, no one knows you are a dog..."

Hannah said...

I knew a guy once who told the most fantastical lies about his own life... it was absolutely ridiculous, but even when challenged he just kept lying.

I still remember one day some of us were talking because a girl's cousin had just died suddenly - and he piped up "yeah, that happened to me" - and what he meant was he had DIED. Seriously. His "me me me" reaction was so automatic he claimed to have died before he could catch himself.

I think in most cases it's a sick plea for attention; the side benefit of getting money and gifts is secondary to the sympathy, I suspect. There is one very prominent blogger I stopped reading because Every. Single. Post. was high drama - and if she had nothing specifically dramatic going on in her life, she created some.

I just stop reading the ones that seem at all suspect. There are enough real stories out there, I don't need fake horrors too.

Heather said...

I feel ya Akeeyu, I think the same thing when I reread what I've written. Because hell, how many more suckass things can happen. Actually, don't answer that, there are so many other hard things that life could throw.

Maggie said...

A few years ago I found a blog written by a woman claiming to have 3 kids (one of them sick) and living with a physically abusive husband. There were always issues, one after the other, and she was always asking people to send her money so she could leave him. She went back and forth between being a scared, helpless woman and being a strong, confident woman that would mock her husband to this face...it just seemed so fake. I think a lot of people were questioning her. Everytime the questioning would become too intense, she would shut her blog down and resurface under a new blog.

It's so weird that I found your post today, because earlier I was looking at someone's twitter feed and saw a name this woman once went by. I clicked on that name, and this woman is now twittering, with the same stories (except this time her kid is even more sick!).

There are also rumors that someone verified she was the same person who wrote a scathing website about "mommybloggers," even photoshopping pictures of their kids with gross captions.

Anonymous said...

I think some people habitually exaggerate the truth because they've learned that 'loud' and 'big' and 'badder' is the way to get their story heard - at least for awhile and even if it isn't really their story anymore. I've watched people in groups tell a powerful story, but have no story telling skills, and be completely ignored by the group... later they try again with a wild version of the story and people listen up.

Narrative is very powerful. I read to understand. I write to understand. I sometimes write about things that aren't about me to 'try the experience on' for understanding (but never post it as my own story). Similar to the way that I get a gut feeling that something bad happened and imagine what would it would feel like if the call was THE call with the worst news ever. I know it is fiction and thank god its not the real experience, but it is a way to taste how bad it could be, and that helps me experience my current reality more intensely.

I do work in a field where I often share bits of stories to illustrate the diversity of people's experiences.. as in I had a patient/client once that had x and 5 years later it looked like y. I always change names and details. That is the game, and after awhile it becomes second nature. It is oh so easy...

I don't know why people lie, but I do know that it can be easy and often rewarding... until its not.

I found one of the recent TAL stories (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1291) strangely relevant to this topic...

Lala said...

It never in a million years occurred to me that Cancer Baby might have been a hoax. I'm pissed off that I even read that.........

B said...

Thanks annon for you insightful comments about your husband. It reminds me of when I worked at the Down Syndrome Association we had a woman who used to ring us to process the grief about having a baby with DS. We would ask how the baby was getting along and send info and all sorts of the caring things we did for new mums. 9 months later we found out that she had actually terminated the pregnancy but had kept in contact with us (pretending to have kept the child) as a way of getting some support around it.

You are right. Some greif is more socially acceptable than others.

Cate said...

I used to be on Fertility Friend and there was always some drama going on about someone faking a pregnancy, etc. It never directly impacted me so I didn't think much of it.
I have been taken advantage of in other areas of my life, however, and have in the past been very ashamed and felt stupid for allowing myself to be duped. My therapist recently pointed out that there is nothing wrong with being a kind, compassionate, and giving person and no reason to feel ashamed. The gift of friendship is just that...a gift. You can choose who you give it to but you can't choose what they do with it. And their abuse of your gift in no way tarnishes the feelings behind the giving in the first place.

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

I discovered a 'mother' who pretended she had lost a child/baby (sometimes a stillbirth sometimes SIDs) plus had a child with leukemia (in some the child had already died) ,a son with autism and other lies (her mother died).
I was suspicious because her story didn't seem right. Dates wrong claiming her new baby had been born near anniversary of her child lost to leukemia, then a few days later this child dies.

I tracked her through several different forums across the internet/countries and informed the moderators. The story was a little different on each one.

She used similar names, with unusual spelling so it was easy to google her.

I believed for this woman initially , many bereaved mothers (friends on the original forum) were very upset after reading of her multiple losses.
Heartbreaking and cruel.
Most of all she allegedly used her real childrens names ...

It shattered me more that someone could fake losing a precious child.It does capitilise our emotions and cause intense pain.
I was so angry.
I was equally angry after reading about the woman on Carly's site too.
That was plain selfishness.

serenity said...

Here from Stirrup Queens. This is a good post.

I think that, early on into blogging, I was so gung ho about meeting bloggers because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't being hoaxed. I don't as much now because I take it on faith that someone is who they say they are.

But there was one blog - not IF or child loss related - that I came across. I knew IMMEDIATELY that the "woman" blogging was spinning fiction. Not only were her stories over the top with horrid things, but there were a number of inconsistencies from post to post. And yet there were plenty of "wow, you're so strong for surviving that" comments.

The people who outright lie have some need for power. And it's so easy to get it on the internet. Because you're as anonymous as you want to be.

Lala - I will never believe that Cancerbaby was a hoax. I just won't. Her posts were too real.

Maggie said...

Serenity, I wonder if you and I are talking about the same woman....without naming names, did she have kids and an abusive husband?

Sarah said...

ugh, after reading about this from artblog i decided i did not particularly want to catch up on this whole line of talk that i had obviously missed during a few-weeks break with the internet but....i find myself sucked in! as to the question of which path to take, i find it just sad that any of these hoaxes are allowed to have enough power to take anything away from the overwhelmingly good, worthwhile, valid, supportive etc etc masses in the blogging community. once they're found out lets take away their power by ignoring them altogether.

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