As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been online since 1985, when we had to push the data uphill both ways in the snow. As Mark Twain reportedly said “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” (Apparently he didn’t really say it.) A large chunk of the conservative community on Twitter and FaceBook have just heard the latest echo of history rhyming. It appears that we may have been lied to by a selfish person who wanted attention, and didn’t care who was hurt as long as they got that attention. In the past I’ve mentioned “Billy” from 24 years ago. There have been a few others over the years. You might say “Tom, you ought to have learned by now!” But that’s not the way it works.
You see, most of the people that you deal with in the online world are real people. Sure, we mostly show our best sides. We’re only human, after all. You can’t tell on Twitter (or even from my blog) if I leave the toilet seat up or not. If you’re lucky, you’ve gotten to meet a few of the people that you know online, so you know that the people are real. You pretty much have to approach the online world with the default assumption that the people that you “meet” there are real. Otherwise you aren’t really in the online world, you just drop a word here or there- And if you assume that we’re not real people and act like it, what you drop into the online world will generally be about as welcome as a turd in the punch bowl.
So you assume that I’m real, and everyone else that you interact with is real. And when you hear about a tragedy it affects you. I’m starting to reach the age where funerals outnumber weddings. Something bad happening to someone my age or older is sad, but you begin to get used to that pain. (Thirty years ago I’d have said that someone my age has lived a long full life. It looks somewhat different from where I sit now.) What you don’t get used to is when the Grim Reaper apparently stalks the young and vibrant. It draws you right in. Recently a fair number of people (mostly conservative and libertarian) have been drawn into the story of a young woman who suddenly discovered she was desperately ill, and was fighting for her life with her sister by her side.
It’s been suggested that we have been taken in by a fraud. The jury is still out on that issue, and we may never know for sure. That hurts. I don’t want it to be true, and it’s likely that you don’t either. When you invest so much caring, worry and prayer, it can feel like it was a sort of emotional rape. Others will react differently, with rage over being fooled. And some will forever deny the possibility that they were fooled. If we were fooled we are not at fault. We’re caring people, and someone wanted attention so much that they took advantage of that.
Some people won’t believe it because the first person to openly make an accusation can sometimes be an asshole. News Flash: If sometimes being an asshole means that you are always wrong about everything then you should stop reading now, because sometimes I can be be an asshole.
If it was a fraud (and that has not been proved) we’ll all be sadder. I said “sadder” not “sadder but wiser” on purpose. At first glance the path of wisdom would seem to be to become cynical, to proclaim that you won’t be taken in again. The only way to really do that is to only believe in the people that you see, and even them only when you can see them. This is the path to becoming the turd in the punch bowl. That does not appear to me to be wisdom. Most of the people you meet online are real, and you rob yourself when you shut yourself away. That doesn’t mean that you should shut your eyes and have blind faith in everything and everyone, any more than you should hand your wallet to random strangers on the street. Approach the world with your eyes open.
If it was a hoax and a fraud, why would someone do such a thing? I saw no evidence that there was any request for money. Not even a request for cards or flowers (though the fact that there was no such patient at a hospital would tend to give away the game.) The cases I have run across in the past mostly involved someone who wanted attention so badly that they either never thought of how much it would hurt people, or didn’t care.
Someone on Twitter asked what happens to prayers prayed for a fraud. Prayer isn’t sitting on Santa’s lap with a list. Prayer is when you commune with God, whatever you believe Him or Her to be. That a selfish person may have lied to us hurts. Communing with God doesn’t. Prayer is never wasted.