Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blogger Beware

A couple of days ago I posted this article on Twitter. It is a long article, but I highly recommend reading it. It is about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer and started a blog about it. Like us in the infertility community, she found a lot of wonderful support online. The only thing is, not all of that support was 100% genuine. Not one, but THREE of the women she met online claiming to have cancer were FAKING the whole thing.

You are probbaly thinking to yourself,"What the heck?" Well, there is a name for this. Munchausen by Internet syndrome. I don't really know how I feel about it being called a syndrome. It seems more like just being a really lousy human being to me, but I am no doctor. It is mostly women, usually starts in the teens or early 20s and is frequently accompanied by another psychological or personality disorder.

When I posted this article, it really struck a chord with my Twitter followers. My friend, Jenny, wrote a post  about after we talked about on Twitter. Be sure to check out her post too!

It is awful to think that someone you have gone to for support during an incredibly difficult time is lying to you. It is a total breach of trust. The scary part? Our community is ripe for the picking to people like this. Infertility isn't something that shows on the outside. It is easy to fake. It is easy to lie about pregnancy loss, and there are plenty of women that do it. I know of three women off the top of my head who have lied to our community about infertility or miscarriages. Can I prove they are lying? No. Therefore I will not name them, but trust me, they exist. I have one friend who has been a direct victim of one of these people.

I might be a great target for someone with Munchausen by Internet due to how vocal I am about my struggles, but it is worth the risk. I have met so many wonderful people through sharing my experience with infertility. I've had people tell me my story helped them. That makes this worth it.

When you put your life and your struggles on the Internet you run the risk of encountering people like this. Does that mean you shouldn't reach out for support? Absolutely not. It is highly possible that one or more of the women I have become so close to are liars, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to start grilling all of my friends on the details of their struggles. Maybe the support you give will help one of the people who do this. They need help. They are obviously very, very troubled individuals.

There are things that you can look out for to avoid being emotionally defrauded on the Internet.
  • Notice inconsistencies. It's hard to keep up a lie, especially a big one. If there are a ot of inconsistencies in what someone is telling you they might be lying.
  • People with Munchausen by Internet will act almost excited or giddy about a serious downturn in their health. They will be excited about near death experiences, tragedies or hospital visits. This is a universal characteristic in all types of Munchausen disorders.
  • Their "conditions" will take many grave or tragic turns to be followed by miraculous recoveries.
  • They will avoid meeting you in real life, often making up bizarre reasons why they cannot.
  • Does the language they use and the symptoms they give sound like it is being read from a textbook? It might be.
  • They may have multiple online accounts and might be pretending to be multiple people.
  • Go with your gut. If your gut reaction is that something doesn't seem right, go with that and back away from the person you feel uncomfortable about.
It is important to be informed about this sort of thing so that you can protect yourself and your emotions but it is no reason to not seek support. The vast majority of the people in online support communities are wonderful people who will make your journey a lot less lonely.

To learn more about Munchausen by Internet syndrome read these helpful articles:



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