This came up in comments recently, and Heather raised a related point in her blog. I want to expand on it a little bit here: why does the warrior eli hoax group think it’s any of their business what other people do on the internet?
If someone creates fake profiles, fake blogs, fake facebook pages, whatever – they have their reasons. As long as they aren’t scamming people for money or trying to profit from it, what’s the harm? Taryn Wright and her group say it hurts people who are really going through these things – cancer, sick child, whatever – but does it really? In what way? No one has ever suffered irreparable emotional harm from reading a fake facebook page. I see tons of feigned outrage and “OMG what kind of person would DO that?” comments, but never any real emotional damage.
Taryn and her followers are trying to turn this into a battle of good against evil. How ridiculous. To mark the people who create fake profiles as ‘evil’ is just being grossly over-dramatic, but I guess that explains why there’s so much war in this world – there’s always some zealot somewhere enlisting people to fight against some imagined evil. Why can’t they just let other people live the lives of their own choosing?
There’s nothing wrong with creating different identities on the internet. Is it wrong to take other people’s pictures and claim them as your own? Sure it is. Is it a crime worth ruining someone’s life over? No. People have many reasons for creating different identities. For some people maybe it’s just a way to play a different part in life and see what it feels like for a while. For some people maybe it’s a way to get away from the boring mundane world they occupy in real life. Maybe they’re lonely and create a group of online friends to help them deal with their loneliness. Real or fake, if it helps them deal with it then it helps them deal with it. I’m not going to sit here and judge them or say how sad or pathetic it is that someone would do that. They have their reasons and it helps them in some way, and that’s all that matters. What’s wrong with that? The internet is many things to many people. People use it for different reasons, and some people use it to role play or participate in a fantasy because it makes them happy to do that, or it eases their loneliness, or whatever. When someone like Taryn, without any diagnostic credentials, comes along and tries to diagnose them with ‘Munchausen By Internet Syndrome’, she’s in the wrong. She has no business diagnosing anyone with anything. She has no business judging anyone for what they do on the internet, and she has no business stalking and publishing the real names of people doing it.
Here’s an analogy: I’m walking down the street and I find someone’s diary or personal journal laying on the ground. I read the diary and discover that this person has some really weird thoughts in their head – not dangerous thoughts, not threats of violence, just weird thoughts, or ideas that are outside the realm of what would be considered ‘normal’ in our society. On closer inspection I find the author’s name written on the inside of the front cover. I do some more digging and discover that this person lives in a small rural town in southwest Idaho. Would I be justified in publishing this diary on the internet along with the name and home town of the person who wrote it? Would I be justified in stating publicly that this person has a mental illness? Of course not. Maybe they wrote in their journal because it helped them deal with their crazy thoughts by getting them down on paper. Or maybe it gave them comfort to see their thoughts in writing, or it helped them separate the crazy thoughts from the ‘normal’ ones, or it helped them figure out what’s real and what’s not. Or maybe they just like writing and they wrote down whatever thoughts popped into their head at the moment when they had a pencil in their hand. Or maybe they had some other reason you or I can’t understand, but it made sense to them at the time. It doesn’t matter WHY they wrote in their journal, it only matters that it helped them in some way, and that’s why they did it. It’s no one’s business to judge them for it or publish their name for public humiliation, and it’s no one’s business to diagnose them with any kind of mental illness because of it. Yet that’s exactly what Taryn and the warrior eli hoax group are doing with their blog. They’re taking something someone does in private, for the benefit of their own sanity or to help them deal with their own private reality, and posting them up there to be laughed at and humiliated for it. Who really has the right to be outraged here?
One more thing: This Dr. Marc Feldman who Taryn says she’s working with…Can you believe she doesn’t see that he’s just using her to sell his books? I mean, come on. As a licensed practitioner of clinical psychology, I’m sure Dr. Feldman knows that even HE has no business diagnosing people with any kind of mental illness based on a tiny sample of things they write on the internet. Taryn says this guy is willing “to provide a psychological consult to any hoaxer who wants his help”. Yea. I wonder how many have taken him up on that offer. What a joke. He’s latching on to some free publicity to sell his books, and that’s all. How much more transparent can it be? Taryn’s not so good at figuring out the obvious, it seems.