Munchausen by Internet

A young woman begins a regimen of cancer treatment and reaches out to the internet to share her experience with others who are going through the same thing. She builds a circle of friends for support, but while going through her own struggle, finds out gradually two of them are faking their illness for attention. Playing the patient online is a lot easier and more common than faking illness in real life.

Think of it: You're anonymous—you can manifest any symptoms you want, like puking pints of blood, without having to actually puke pints of blood. And instead of being examined by the trained eyes of a doctor, you're welcomed unconditionally by flocks of people who stand on-call, ready to shower you with attention and emotional support 24 hours a day. For weeks or months or years, you can live out your deception without the fear of having your lies challenged in person. And if someone does eventually doubt your story, you can simply log out. Change your name or your illness. Find a fresh group of sympathizers.

This accessibility makes Munchausen by internet "way, way more common than Munchausen ever was or could have been," Dr. Feldman says. "Unfortunately, a lot of therapists have no clue what Munchausen is, let alone Munchausen by internet."

After she becomes a crusader to expose fake internet personas with tragic medical stories, she is victimized once again by an even more convincing troll who went to great lengths to prove her nonexistent illnesses. You may recognize some aspects of her story at The Stranger. Or you may learn to be even more diligent when befriending people online. Link -via Fark

(Illustration credit: Paul Hoppe)


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