An online identity is an important thing. Your online identity says a lot about you, it represents who you are to your family, your friends and potential employers. Some people have lost jobs, been unsuccessful at interviews and even got divorced because of their online identities.
Some people have even ‘died’.
Not everyone uses their online identity to represent who they are in the ‘real’ world. With a vast area of the internet dedicated to social media, it’s natural that many people see your online identity as a representation of who you are elsewhere.
But once upon a time, before Twitter, Facebook and even MySpace, a section of the internet was (and still is) dedicated to fandoms.
(Fandoms, for those who don’t know, are basically groups of fans. It is a community for a television programme, a film, a pop group, etc.)
Being a part of a fandom usually involves some kind of activity in the ‘fandom’ world. Many fans choose to write fanfiction, create fan art or some merely join in discussion on websites such as LiveJournal and FanForum.
Fandoms can be renowned, e.g. Justin Bieber’s fandom are infamous for their over the top reactions and sometimes threatening behaviour.
In reality, the majority of fandoms go about their daily lives causing nobody any great suffering, reading/reviewing fanfiction and discussing the latest happenings in their fandom’s world.
There are a few people, however, who take the idea of an ‘online identity’ a step further. Whilst it may be common sense to avoid sharing too much of your ‘real’ life with the world online, but some people take this a step too far and create an identity from scratch. Alternatively, some may share only some information about themselves but under a different guise.
A problem that is out there (though amongst a very small minority) is that if you create an identity, you can also destroy it.
By killing off your online persona.
That’s right. There are people in this world who take part in the internet, who make friends, share stories and ultimately, end their ‘online’ days in whichever fashion they choose.
Morally, I’m sure many of you will agree with me, this is a horrendous thing to do.
Let’s pretend you’ve been taking part in an online message board for a number of years, you’ve become friends with a number of people who you now consider to be as close as your ‘real life’ friends. You enjoy talking regularly with a person called Leona. You feel like you know lots about Leona, she’s someone you look to for support and friendship.
Then one day you find out that she has died.
The ultimate, never to come back from, ill fate of death.
And how do you feel? Well, most people will feel the same way they would feel if one of their close ‘real life’ friends died. This a person you communicated with regularly, you sought comfort in their emails/messages. Their absense is felt amongst your community and in your own life.
But she’s not really dead.
Someone just pretended that, because they didn’t want to have to pretend to be Leona anymore.
How can someone be so callous?
That’s a very good question.
I don’t even have an answer.
If anyone has an answer, please tell me.
Death is not something you can use to get rid of a part of yourself you no longer want to have to deal with. (Aside from physical death.)
The worst thing is that some of the people who do fake their own deaths do so after months of claiming they have cancer.
Yes, that’s also right, it happens. Very few people on the internet actually pretend that they have cancer. And then they actually pretend that they have died.
It beggers belief that this is even something that happens, it sounds like something in a soap opera or a badly made television programme. Oh hey, we made this mistake online, so let’s pretend you’re dead instead.
That stuff doesn’t happen in real life, surely?
I’ve seen it happen a couple of times, over the last decade (it’s really not *that* widespread) and there’s not a lot a person can do but believe it.
How else will you know? You’re hardly going to go knocking on their door asking for proof of this person’s death. Many people don’t mix their ‘real’ life with their online one, in that respect.
I don’t mean to scare anyone, or put this idea into anyone’s head that pretending to be sick or pretending to die is common. It’s not.
But it does happen, and I think it’s terrible.