When first we practice to deceive...
So they say, and based on one experience I had online it seems to be true.
Way back in the olden days, before twitter, message boards were very popular. I think some still are.
I was a member of a popular board for parents. Both mums and dads chatted about kids, life, jobs, all sorts of things. Some of us flirted a bit, nothing serious, we were mostly all in relationships. Some of us made friends and exchanged Christmas cards, talked on the phone, chatted via email that sort of thing. And about 20 of us became really close. All women and one dad.
When a few of us were banned from the message board site (don't ask, that's a WHOLE other story) we started our own board.
The dad on the board was in his 30s. He had a young wife and a young daughter when he first joined. Later his wife got pregnant again and they had another girl. He was really nice, worked in the city doing shares or something, was good at financial advice. Often discussed schooling, wanted advice on his daughters, that sort of thing. His wife wasn't keen on him sharing things online, so he used a pseudonym ("Bis") , for himself and "fake" names for all his family, much like I do now, back then I shared my real name, and my families real names and location.
He was witty and clever, very chatty, often flirty, but never stepped over the line. He was nice, and fun. It was good to have a dad's perspective on things.
We were all friends on the new board, still talking about family life over a year later.
Then one of the ladies on the board broke up with her husband. It was very sad and a tough time for her, we all rallied round (digitally speaking) with advice and support.
Soon after that, Bis needed to travel on business and suggested he meet her as he would be in her state. She agreed, they met and had lunch.
But she was worried, she told us he appeared a lot younger than he had claimed, and he was a lot more flirty than he was online. But the meal passed without major incident and they said goodbye still friendly.
When he returned home after his trip he told us how he'd stumbled on a family crisis. His wife was having an affair and was planning to leave. He was devastated. She would be taking the children and he didn't know what to do. He hoped maybe he could stay with one of us, specifically the lady he'd met as they'd got on so well .....
None of us knew what to say, so many friends with breakups was upsetting, we were sad for everyone, but the lady he'd met told us privately that she was uneasy about meeting him again.
Bis continued to tell us about what was going on but things sounded like they were happening so fast, it was all starting to sound 'odd'.
Bis told us how much he'd always liked the lady he'd met and that now he wanted to ask her out, but he'd told some lies. We assumed maybe his wife didn't know about his online life, or maybe he'd invented her 'affair' to put himself in a good light, but the "affair" his wife had wasn't the lie...
He told us he needed to come clean. It
seemed that a tangled web was so tangled by now that even Bis realised,
despite keeping copious notes about what he'd said in the past, the
ages of his girls, etc etc he couldn't continue.
It was ALL a lie. He was not 30. He was not married. There were no children. He didn't work in the city. There was no business trip. He didn't even have a girlfriend.
He was a teenager, living at home, he worked at a corner store. He had joined the message boards when his then girlfriend had aborted his baby when he had wanted to keep it and marry her, they had split up. He had wanted to pretend he was going to be a dad, he had been so upset he had invented his perfect family, and the lie had grown and grown.
He had grown to like people online. But he couldn't stop the lie. It was too big, it had a life of its own. He had tried to 'remove' his family only when he wanted to ask the woman out...
Everyone on the message board was shocked. They immediately banned him. The woman he met was freaked out and wouldn't speak to him ever again.
I kept on touch online for a while as did my friend Mimi (she's real, I've been to california and met her) but it was odd, not knowing what, if anything was real.
Sometimes I think of him and wonder what he's doing now. I hope he's ok. The story was strange and sad. But it makes me behave differently online now.
There is an old New Yorker cartoon where two dogs are using a PC, one is saying to the other "on the internet, no one knows you are a dog" it's true. None of us know who the others are.
Take care out there.
Have you been fooled online? How much do you lie?
Pop over to my Facebook page and comment there, or come for a chat on twitter.
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