Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why you don't adore me?

Maybe nobody loved you when you were young
Maybe, boy, when you cry, nobody ever comes
Sara Bareilles, Machine Gun

i want to talk about internet fakers for a minute.

it's been a big issue in the health community at large and it's a dicey situation. some people really are sick but exaggerate, some people aren't sick at all (physically). a big issue in the health communities to start with is what i like to call the Pain Olympics. this is where people compete with each other to see who has it worse, who's sicker, who's got better pain medication, who's stronger, who's braver, who's had more to overcome, who has more conditions. i am not really going to delve into that as i feel that is a topic that merits its own post. but given that this behavior is so common, it's often hard to weed out the people who are flat out lying from the people who are just really unlucky and/or just have an obnoxious need to be "the sickest".

it all comes down to the same basic thing, though. attention.there are many kind people on the internet, especially in the health communities, that want to give emotional support and  sometimes send gifts to people whose health journeys they follow. and the worse you are, the more attention you get. more page likes, more comments, more presents. this is appealing to people who crave attention. and for a physically healthy person who wants attention, pretending to be sick is enticing because online they can get all of the support, attention, and gifts without actually having to suffer.

the terrifying thing is that people like this never, ever stop. they get caught online or in real life, and they just move on and start all over. some more deviously than others. the latest faker making the rounds, who goes by Priscilla Louise Shaw, had the sheer audacity to completely copy and paste an entry about a battle with sepsis from a friend of mine's blog. this comes quite awhile after she was outed from the gastroparesis community. but for some reason she thought that people wouldn't remember her, i suppose, and so she has attempted to try to get back into the GP community.. by stealing a "status update" from a blog that is very well known in the GP community.

now, this woman it seems (if she's a woman at all) is dumb enough not only to continue using her name (if that's her real name at all) but also try preying on the same community more than once. thankfully, this makes her an easy faker to cope with--everyone knows she's lying, she's not allowed in the groups, and so the best she can do is try to drum up support on her personal FB and hope nobody in her real life calls her out on her BS. not all fakers make these very obvious mistakes, though. there's a lot of different approaches people take to faking. priscilla's is certainly the dumbest i've seen yet.

then you have people like pearl gannon who are also dumb enough to use their real name, but hop communities--and in pearl's case, are faking it in real life as well. pearl is also looking for a lot more than support; she is always "fundraising" for one reason or another, including trying to fundraise to pay for a service dog that she was supposedly getting from an organization that, it turns out, does not charge for their service dogs. when confronted with that information, she changed her page to say that it was to cover "travel expenses" for her to go to the organization.

then you have people like cara goodman, who after being caught faking cancer and AIDS both online and in real life, move on and create a whole new identity before striking communities again.

occasionally you have someone that stops doing it because they haven't got a choice (carissa hads/james puryear, who is in jail but not for faking illness on the internet) or because they are legitimately getting help for their issues (some of the stories on the warrior eli hoax blog, although who knows how much is true and how much isnt, as taryn [who runs it] is a pretty good liar herself as demonstrated here and here).

and then still others like karen murphy get caught, disappear from the internet, and are never heard from again... that we know of. my theory is these people also come back, but do a better job hiding their lies the next time around.

it's a terrible trend and it seems to be on the climb. (or maybe identifying fakers is on the climb. or maybe both.) i wound up taking a step back from the "finding fakers" game because 1. they never stop. 2. there's simply too many people that people are suspicious of and want investigated and half the time its just because they dont like the person or feel they ask for donations/gifts too often. 3. it's very difficult to find the truth. you have to count on someone screwing up and telling stories that dont match up or dont make sense medically, or stealing pictures or words from someone else. there's no way to get access to their medical records so there's no way to tell whats REALLY going on with them (as in the case of karen murphy, where so many are presuming that she has an eating disorder when there's no evidence to suggest she does. she may well be physically ill but we'll never know, and her page was a definite scam.)

and finally 4, which was mostly what i wanted to write about but i got lost in my own words again. there are always going to be people who believe them. it's not logical. it's not sensible. it's baffling to those of us who grasp the awfulness of what they've done. but there are always going to be people who believe them despite all the evidence. and there are going to be people that know they are liars, but stay friends with them anyway, mostly claiming altruistic reasons. (though im not sure how stroking someone's back and saying "its okay that you did this." is altruistic, it seems counterproductive for a person that needs mental help.)

in my case, the people from #4 were what finally drove me from investigating potential fakers. i was getting harassed and PM'd repeatedly regarding posts i made about both pearl gannon and karen murphy (who ironically i had nothing to do with and was in fact a victim of hers myself) and cara goodman (whom i also did not uncover, but i did re-expose her and also have been acting as liason-slash-mouthpiece for her most well-known victim and one of the sweetest people i've ever been lucky enough to know, catsnotcancer, so her side could be heard without her getting the harassment), and it got to the point where i was getting harassed every minute i was on facebook. so i left all that behind and made a new account.

i have a LOT of experience with this sort of thing and the best advice i can offer to anyone is to unfriend and block known fakers, and if someone on your friends list makes you wonder, tells stories that dont make sense, etc--beware. im not saying they're faking. i know a lot of people question a lot of things in my life, simply because i don't share all of the details and occasionally that works out so it looks like theres a "hole" in my story. so it can be innocuous. but guard yourself. especially if someone is asking for donations or gifts. if someone posts one time, you know, "this is my address if you want to send a card or something, that would really make me smile!" that's fine. but if someone is posting constantly asking for gifts and money, if disaster seems to strike on a regular basis.. if disaster seems to strike right around a gift-giving holiday constantly.. if every other day it's a big dramatic thing about whether they're going to live or die.. if it seems like its just TOO MUCH tragedy for one person.. these are all things that should raise a red flag and at that point all i can say is.. pay attention.

honesty is easy. you dont have to remember what you said. lying means you have to remember the details you gave. it's a juggling act. and eventually if someone is lying, they're going to drop a ball somewhere. and if you're paying close enough attention to them, you'll see it fall.

for a really well-written read on this phenomenon which has been coined munchausen's by internet, check out this article by cienna madrid.

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