I've been a member of web communities that have been devestated by this behavior, and we've all seen them here over the years. I wasn't aware there was an actual, clinical name for it, or that papers have been written on it. (for those unfamiliar, it's people who fake illnesses for attention online, and it's pathological). This is from the wiki page describing the impact it has on the communities where they do it:
"Forum members whose ruses are discovered by their support groups are frequently banned from such communities—sometimes after demanding that site administrators do so—moving to other websites to display other ailments. Denise Grady noted in The New York Times that the woman with the eating disorder moved to a group for sexual abuse survivors then another where she claimed to be dying of AIDS. An article in The Weekend Australian highlighted an example of this in 2003: a woman in London admitted to belonging to online support forums dedicated to helping members cope with migraines, grieving over dead children, and breast cancer, all at the same time. She told a psychiatrist that she would study a specific malady and subsequently present herself with its symptoms; her time at each forum followed a daily schedule. Others disappear and simply stop posting, such as the monk who claimed to have cancer.
When confronted with inaccuracies or inconsistencies, those who are suspected of perpetrating fabrications may compound the deceit by accusing forum members of imposing greater stresses upon them, exacerbating their conditions, or worsening their depression. Users may employ sockpuppets—separate online identities controlled by the same person—to accuse other forum members of disloyalty and persecution, or support the user who is under suspicion. Feldman's 1998 article in the Western Journal of Medicine notes a case in which a member of a support group for people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome created a husband, sister-in-law, and family friend who simultaneously engaged in arguments with and about the original member; when the amount of attention directed toward the original member became inadequate, she claimed the sister-in-law committed suicide in response to the lack of support.
Because no money is exchanged and laws are rarely broken, there is little legal recourse to take upon discovery of someone faking illness.
Such dramatic situations often polarize online communities, making many members feel ashamed for believing elaborate lies while others remain staunch supporters. Members who admit to feigning their conditions often respond by implicating the gullibility of forum members, suggesting it is their own fault for being deceived. Feldman admits that an element of sadism may be evident in some of the more egregious abuses of trust. A grief counselor named Pam Cohen, who witnessed the outpouring of emotion for Kaycee Nicole, likened the personal devastation resulting from genuine concern, sympathy, and support that forum members gave to the 19-year-old and her mother only to discover none of it was true, to "emotional rape". Joinson and Dietz-Uhler in Social Science Computer Review, address deception perpetrated on some forums—specifically IRC and multi-user dungeons—and state that masquerading is so common that hoaxes are expected, and their perpetrators are sometimes even praised for creating realistic ones.
Other perpetrators react by issuing general accusations of dishonesty to everyone, following the exposure of such fabrications. The support groups themselves often bar discussion about the fraudulent perpetrator, in order to avoid further argument and negativity. Many forums do not recover, splintering or shutting down. In 2004, members of the blog hosting service LiveJournal established a forum dedicated to investigating cases of members of online communities dying—sometimes while online. Writer Howard Swains referred to the online deaths as "pseuicides" in Wired.com. New Zealand PC World Magazine called Münchausen by Internet "cybermunch", and those who posed online "cybermunchers". The LiveJournal forum reported in 2007 that of the deaths reported to them about 10% were real."
After reading all of it and thinking back on the damage done where we had a memorial for someone who faked her own death (as well as inventing an abusive husband), I wondered - could one "cybermunch" be enough to destroy an entire online community with the neediness and people taking sides to either defend or point out the lies?Answer Question
Answer by CKel at 5:33 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by kmath at 6:01 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by Dardenella at 6:11 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by Dardenella at 6:14 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by Brawn at 6:47 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by sahmamax2 at 6:53 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by KTElite at 6:57 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by Dardenella at 7:10 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
Answer by anime_mom619 at 7:29 PM on Dec. 28, 2013
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