I am not new to internet message forums. I think the first experience I really had with them was back when I was planning my wedding, so about eight years, on and off, that I’ve been part of various online communities. I am all too familiar with trolls and liars and weirdos–I actually remember the first trolling post I ever read (yes, it was *that* bizarre, and no, I’m not going to share what it was!) back on my wedding planning forum when I was still in college.
I actually took a break from message boards for a while after that, not because of trolls or anything, but just because I hadn’t found anything I was really interested in. That is, until right before I got pregnant with Turkey, and stumbled upon Babycenter. I’ve been a member there for over six years now (although that relationship is about to end, which is a whole other story), and I’ve seen more than my share of weird stuff there. Fake triplet pregnancies, fake kidnapping stories, fake infant loss stories (what kind of person does that?!?), mixed in with the usual drama-seekers and pot-stirrers. I never have become an active poster on any of the handful of boards I read on that website, mostly because there is so much drama out there. A site like Babycenter makes it easy to remember that the person on the other end of the message could be a middle-age pervert, a bored teenager, or a mom with a hormonal imbalance. I’ve learned to hold myself back from all that garbage, probably for the best. Sure, I read my favorite boards, when I’m looking for specific parenting information, to keep up with certain posters, or just for a little entertainment (I can get sucked in with the best of them!), but very rarely post anything myself.
I have one other forum that I’m more active on. I still don’t post a lot–with four children five and under, who has time? I do read it whenever I get the chance, though, and I’ve come to know most of the regular posters quite well. I’ve been a member there since just after Moose was born, and lurked for a while prior to that, so it’s probably been three years or so that I’ve gotten to know these women. I guess I let my guard down a little more there, maybe because it’s a Christian mom’s forum (although it’s not solely populated by Christian women), maybe because it’s a smaller community, I don’t know, but I find myself trusting people there a little more, and assuming that people aren’t who they say they are a little less.
There is one particular poster there who joined a few months after I did. She has been very open with the community about her struggles with breast cancer, and her prognosis has not been good. Not good at all. It’s a particularly heart-wrenching tale because she’s only 30 (just a year older than me!), and has two children, one close in age to Turkey, and one somewhere between Bunny and Moose. My heart has broken for her as I’ve read updates–every doctor appointment, every round of treatment–because they had finally told her she had less than a year to live.
The women of the forum have really banded together to support her. Several of them have met her in person, have cooked meals for her and her family, one had even talked with her about adopting her children after her passing. Other women who couldn’t meet her sent gifts, whether small things like a scrapbook page or a scarf to cover her hair loss, or larger things like gift cards. It was heart-warming to see the way Christian women can take care of each other.
So, after all this display of Christian compassion, it comes out yesterday that this woman is perhaps not as sick as she said. Maybe has had cancer, but to a lesser extent, maybe hasn’t had it at all. Details are sketchyt, but several women, who I trust (as much as I trust anyone online at this point!), and who have met her and spent time with her, are calling her out on inconsistencies, and downright lies, in her story. So, we know, based on visits from other women and photos posted, that she’s not a bored teenager, not a middle-aged pervert, but quite possibly an unstable woman, and heaven only knows what affect this is having on her children. She has refused to respond, has actually deleted a lot of her old posts on the forum, and has basically disappeared. Of course, the forum moderator deleted the threads dealing with this topic as soon as they came up, so the people “in the know” haven’t been allowed to share their knowledge, unless it’s via PM.
I am thankful that I did not send any money or gifts to her (even on this forum, I’m not that naive!), and of course I do not regret time in prayer for her and her family, but I can’t help but think that I could have been making better use of my prayer time had I known the truth. I am annoyed at how emotionally involved I allowed myself to get in this thing, and that I shed tears for her, thinking about how she must feel knowing she was very soon going to be leaving two children behind. I mean, it’s been over a year, maybe closer to two, that I’ve been thinking about and praying for her. And it was last fall, around Thanksgiving, that she shared the worst news the doctors had given her. That’s a long time to put up such a ruse. I have a hard time believing that so many Christian women got together and came up with a scheme to discredit someone just for kicks. It stands to reason far more that the one is at fault, rather than the many. Either way, someone has been lying, and in a big and terrible way. It just goes to remind me that you never know who you’re dealing with online.