When Online is Out of Line: The Scarlet Letter

Whenever someone was banned from that forum I was a part of, the moderators posted an image of a troll being struck by a bolt of lightning and the word ‘banned’ appeared under their user name. They would also be added to a thread titled ‘banninated’ which served as a kind of banning hall of fame. It included a list of the people who were banned, a description of the reason they were banned and a link to the thread in which they were banned. The rest of the thread was devoted to mercilessly mocking the banned members and speculating about their lives. This of course, was in addition to the mocking and speculation that occurred in the original thread in which they were banned as well as the mocking and speculation that occurred in various other threads at random times.

If the banned member was active in the Facebook group associated with the forum they would be removed from that group upon their banning. Many current and previous members of the forum would unfriend or block the banned member on Facebook upon hearing of their banning.

Before I was banned I would sometimes participate in the roasting of banned members. It gave me a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that I was a part of the community. Once I was the one who was banned, knowing that I was being torn apart by the community and that I had become a persona non grata felt awful.

It was as though I had been branded with a scarlet letter but instead of wearing an A for adultery I was wearing a B for banned. I was an object of scorn and a punchline of jokes. In being represented as a troll I had been dehumanized and rendered as ugly on the outside as I felt on the inside.

Perhaps being rejected from that community would have been easier if I’d had another community to turn to but I didn’t. Of course there are a lot of other internet forums out there and I did consider joining a few of them but ultimately decided not to. Who’s to say I wouldn’t be just as hated at those places and treated just as badly, maybe even more so?  The truth was that as horrible as that bad baby names message board could be, as far as message boards went, it was not one of the more horrible ones. In fact, I think it was one of the nicer ones.

The prospect of reaching out to people from my past was in the back of my mind but it was a scary prospect indeed. What if I was just as annoying, rude and immature as all those people on the forum said I was? What if all those negative things those people said about me were true?  Why would anyone want to be friends with someone like that? People had been friends with me in the past and had applied positive descriptors to me such as funny, intelligent and empathetic but that was then. I had changed over the years. Maybe I had, as one forum member suggested, experienced a decline in my mental abilities. Maybe I had become, well, the kind of person who got banned from message boards.

There were people from the forum who even now, liked me but maybe those people were wrong about me and everyone else was right about me. After all, my best friend from there had been banned herself.

I drew comfort from my forum friends who told me that being banned was not a reflection of my worth and that those horrible things those people had said about me were a reflection on them, not on me. Yet my ties with those comforting friends seemed tenuous. I feared they would ditch me like Karen and Weasel had. Then I would literally be friendless.

Fear and loneliness continued to eat away at me until one day I decided to start making friend requests and sending messages to friends from my past. I knew I was taking a risk but decided it was a risk worth taking and I would just have to hope it turned out better than when Bernadette and I had decided exposing Marcia’s lies was a risk worth taking.

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Sometimes I Feel Like I Don’t Have a Partner

The American education system needs a lot of reforms but one aspect in need of reform that I never see mentioned is the classroom partner system. By this I mean the practice of a teacher asking the students in the class to partner up with another student for a project or activity.  In fact, when I am queen of the world, I will ban the practice.

It may seem like a rather innocuous practice and in fact, most kids would probably rather have the freedom to choose their own partner than have one chosen for them but if you’re the socially awkward kid who always ends up being the one left without a partner, it’s torturous. I speak from experience on that one.

Every time the teacher told the class to find a partner I was filled with dread and discomfort. I would just sit or stand there awkwardly as everyone else scrambled to find a partner. I was never quite sure what to do with myself but there didn’t seem much point in trying to find a partner or in even pretending to try to find one.

Many socially challenged kids are bullied but I was not the kind of kid who was a target of bullying. I was just the kind of kid who no one wanted to have as a partner. Once most of the class had paired up, the teacher would ask if there was anyone who didn’t have a partner and I would have to raise my hand in shame, or worse, the teacher wouldn’t ask, and I would have to tell her I didn’t have a partner.

If there were an even number of kids in the class I would be paired off with the other poor, unfortunate soul who hadn’t found a partner. If there were an odd number of kids I  would have to be added to an existing partner pair to form a threesome. That often involved the teacher asking the class if any partners would be willing to take me on. There were rarely any volunteers and never any eager ones.

A threesome in a class full of partners is like a three-wheeled bicycle; it’s awkward, it’s useless and no one wants it. I had one pair of students I was thrust upon explicitly tell me they did not want to work with me. The rest told me that implicitly. While I did have some trouble picking up on implicit social cues, I had no trouble perceiving that I was not wanted as a partner. My classmates weren’t particularly subtle about it.

Of course even without the choose your own partner system, I still would have struggled socially both in and out of school and I would have been aware that I was a social outcast. It did not escape my notice that no one played with me at recess or that no one invited me over to their house after school. Yet being the one in the class left without a partner over and over again made my social issues tangible, public and humiliating in a way that I did not appreciate and it did my self esteem no favors. It was like having a sticker that said social reject stamped on my forehead while I was on stage in front of a captive audience.

I was recently watching a Netflix show geared towards teenagers that featured a scene in  which a high school teacher threatened a dawdling, misbehaving student with “Find a partner or I’ll find one for you!” I’ve heard that in real life too. For me that wouldn’t have been a threat; it would have been a promise of salvation. For the kids who did see that comment as a threat, being assigned me as a partner may have been the ultimate punishment.

I wish teachers just assigned partners as standard practice. I imagine the more socially adept kids would disagree though and there were more of those kinds of kids than there were kids like me. Of course kids would prefer to work with their friends but if you only ever work with your friends, that doesn’t lend itself itself towards making new friends or learning to work with different types of personalities. Once you grow up you can choose your romantic partner but for the most part you can’t choose your work colleagues. Being stuck with a bad partner for a school project sucks but it’s not like you have to to marry them.

***

Since I don’t have the best social skills and I’m not a very sociable person, Research Methods in Social Psychology would not have been my first choice of a research methods course but in order to graduate from college this summer I needed to take a research methods class and Research Methods in Social Psychology was the only one available.

The syllabus we were handed on the first day of class informed us that we would be doing a final project and that we had two options to choose from. Option A was an individual project. Option B involved working with a partner of your choosing.

I didn’t have to think twice about which option I would choose. I knew I wouldn’t be able  to find a partner and that was just as well because Option A was clearly the easier option and it was much more suited to my strengths and interests.

I walked out of the classroom that night feeling pretty good about my prospects in the class and about the project. As I was exiting the stairwell, one of my classmates approached me.

“Excuse me….?” she began

“Yeah?” I replied, a little nervously. I figured she was going to tell me my fly was undone or I had something in my teeth because those kinds of things are a part of my brand of social awkwardness and when a stranger stops to talk to me nine times out of ten it’s to tell me something of that nature.

My classmate cleared her throat and said “I was wondering, would you like to be my partner for the project?”

Christmas Came Early This Year

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written in this blog and I’m also sorry to be writing about Christmas in August but the news I’m about to reveal is kind of a big deal.

Last year after Thanksgiving I wrote a blog post titled Thanksgiving with the Family about-you guessed it- the Thanksgiving I spent with my family. After I wrote it I noticed in one of the emails I get about submission opportunities for writers that Chicken Soup for the Soul was looking for holiday stories for their book The Wonder of Christmas. I was really in to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series as an adolescent and the story I’d just written sounded like something that might appear in one of those books so after making a few slight modifications I submitted it.

I knew it was a long shot since they get thousands of submissions for each book and only have room for 101 stories. Unlike most publications, they don’t send rejection letters. They only notify you if your piece has been accepted. That works for me because I’m pretty sensitive to rejection.

Months and months passed and I heard nothing back from them. I figured my story hadn’t been selected and pretty much put the submission out of my mind.

Then in the middle of July I noticed an email from Chicken Soup for the Soul in my inbox. When I opened it I was informed that my story had made it past the first selection round. They asked for my permission to publish it and had me write up a short biography. They said that giving my permission did not guarantee that my story would appear in the book but they needed my permission to consider it. Final decisions would not be made until about a month before the publication date, which was October 16th.

I eagerly filled out the forms they had sent to me and sent them back. I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up but I was pretty excited. I kept stalking Chicken Soup for the Soul on social media looking for updates on their holiday book. A few days in to my stalking I noticed that some people who had submitted to the book were sharing the emails they’d gotten informing them that their stories had made it to the final selection round. I had not gotten such an email so I figured my story had not made the cut. I was disappointed but I told myself to be proud that I’d made it as far as I had.

Then on July 28th, I got an email informing me my story had in fact made the final selection round. I was sent a copy of my story as it would appear in the book along with the funny quote they’d chosen to accompany it.

And then today I got an email informing me my story had been selected to appear in the book and the book had been sent off to the printer.

So as of October 16, 2018 I will be a published author and I can add being published in a book to my list of life accomplishments. It’s a good feeling.

When Online is Out of Line: You Should Get a Blog

While I didn’t end up creating a new account on the forum I was banned from when I went to Rhode Island, I did end up creating a different kind of new internet account while I was there. Multiple people on that forum had suggested I get a blog but I hadn’t paid much attention to their suggestions since they weren’t suggesting I get a blog because they thought I was a good writer with interesting things to say. They were suggesting it because they felt the stuff I was posting on the forum was annoying drivel and they wanted me to post it on a blog rather than bother them with it.

If what those people were saying was true they were only reading what I posted on the internet because they had to in order for the rest of the forum to make sense. No one would have to read my blog in order to follow along with the rest of an internet community and since I only produced shallow nonsense no one would be interested in reading what I wrote for its own sake.

And yet I knew that what those people on the forum were saying was not true. I knew that if I created a blog those people would track it down and read it. I also knew that I was a good writer.

While I knew that going back to the forum would be a bad idea, I still felt the need to make my thoughts about what had happened there known to both my cyber enemies  and cyber friends. Blogging seemed like the perfect way to accomplish that. I wouldn’t just be writing about it for their benefit though. I would be writing about it for my own benefit and the benefit of whoever else might read it. Maybe other people who had been cyberbullied would realize they were not alone.

I also had plenty of other things I could write about on a blog that were unrelated to the forum. While I did hope to eventually get readers who liked me and my blog, even if my only audience was hate watchers from the board, it would be good to give them an intimate glimpse of myself and my struggles. I did not expect any of my cyber enemies to ever feel bad about anything they’d said or done to me but perhaps they would be forced to acknowledge that with their words and with their actions they had not hurt a troll and they had not hurt a faker. They had hurt a real person with a real life and real feelings.

I Googled blog sites and came across WordPress. And thus Crazy-NOS was born.

My About section makes sense in its own right but it’s filled with references to things that were said to me on the forum. It was my way of starting to work through my hurt feelings and take back my power. My tagline “This is a Kiracracy” was in reference to the person who had told me “This is not a Kiracracy” in regards to the forum. I wasn’t in control of the forum but I would control my blog.

So I started writing on my blog. I wrote about various subjects and I made some references to what I had gone through with that forum without going in to great detail.

Sure enough it wasn’t long before my referral links showed that people from the forum were reading and discussing my blog.  “I’m glad they’re enjoying it” I thought to myself.

When Online is Out of Line: Second Thoughts

I did not end up re-registering for that forum when I went to Rhode Island or any time after that. In the end my heart just wasn’t in it and it just didn’t seem like a good thing to do.

I reasoned that if I satisfied my curiosity by reading what those people had said about me and then gave them a piece of my mind I would be banned again. After I was banned those people would inevitably say more stuff about me. Would I then have to register for the forum a third time to satisfy my curiosity about the additional things that were said about me? Would I have to respond to those things that were said about me and thus get banned a third time? Would I then have to register for the forum a fourth time to satisfy my curiosity about the things that were said in the aftermath of my third banning? Did I really want to get caught in an endless loop of insatiable curiosity and forum bannings?

Plus I knew that seeing me return to the forum, have an emotional outburst and then get banned again would be satisfying to some of my cyber enemies and I did not want to give them that satisfaction.

Of course I could just register for that forum, read what was said about me and not reply to it. I could continue to read that whole forum and remain undetected for years to come. But would being a passive observer in a community where I was once an active participant ultimately be a satisfying way to spend my time? What would spending all day observing from the sidelines a community that rejected me do to my already precarious mental health? It may have done me less harm than all the time I spent interacting with a community that constantly attacked me but was this really a path I wanted to continue on?

Furthermore, I knew that even if I read every word that was said about me on the forum I was banned from, people were also talking smack about me on the spinoff forum reserved only for the popular members of the original forum and I would never gain access to that. I was sure that people also talked smack about me elsewhere on the internet and in private conversations. I would never know the details of any of that. What I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me.

When Online is Out of Line: I’ll Be Back

I heard through the grapevine that it had been announced on the forum that Bernadette had been banned for stalking Marcia. People were creeped out and horrified that we had searched the internet for information about Marcia and her family even though they had done the same thing to me less than two weeks ago. Their hypocrisy infuriated me.

While being banned is meant to prevent you from ever coming back to the forum, getting back on to a forum you’ve been banned from is pretty easy to do. To read the public area of a forum you’ve been banned from all you have to do is clear your cookies. If you want to post on the forum and gain access to the members only section you have to register for another account without being recognized for who you are but that’s not too difficult to do either.  If you’re not banned by or recognizable by your IP address it’s as simple as registering under a different email.  If IP address is an issue then you just have to register with a different email from a different location or use an IP blocker.

Old habits die hard and after I cleared my cookies I was going back to the public section of the board on a regular basis. That section of the board was devoted solely to discussing names but even there members were writing nasty, insulting comments about me. One member re-started a thread that I had started previously, saying she wanted a thread that was Kira-free. Another member said she thought Magnolia would make a good middle name for a kid but was hesitant to suggest it because it had been my user name. She went on to say that she was really, really fucked off that I hadn’t changed my user name before the ban hammer hit because Magnolia was a lovely name but I had turned it in to something that should not be used. Then there was the member who referred to me as a psycho stalker with the posting speed of a spambot

Many if, not most, of the members who have been banned from the forum I was a part of have come back under a different account. Sometimes they’re upfront about who they are and tell everyone off but usually they come back under a fake identity and make themselves a part of the community again by pretending to be someone they’re not (then there are those who are banned for originally creating a fake identity and come back as themselves.)  Other members eventually discover that they’re a previously banned member, at which point they are banned again. Sometimes they continue to come back with more fake identities. There are also banned members who create new accounts so they can lurk on the forum without posting.

Registering for that forum again to post under a fake identity was never remotely appealing to me but coming back to tell people off was and so was registering to go back and read everything that had been said about me after I was banned.

I had more anger over the whole situation than I knew what to do with. As a release I wrote “letters” to the board that I deleted soon afterwards. I had this fantasy that if I “sent”those letters everyone on the forum would agree that I was right, that they would recognize their hypocrisy, that they would apologize for how badly and unfairly I had been treated but I knew it was just that: a fantasy. “Sending” that letter would just make me look worse in the eyes of the assholes and hypocrites. They would respond to it by further attacking and insulting me.

When I told my forum friend Trixie that I was considering going back to the forum to give everyone a piece of my mind she said she didn’t think it would be worth my time. She also said nothing good would come out of reading the thread in which I was banned.

“I want to go back and read the thread where I was banned” I said to Bernadette

“Why? You know it would just be really stupid.”

“My curiosity would be satisfied”

“Satisfied in a good way?”

Well, no, my curiosity would not be satisfied in a good way but unfortunately I had the kind of curiosity that didn’t discriminate between good and bad. I wanted to know all the lurid details of everything even if I knew they would upset me. If people were talking about me I felt I had the right to know what they were saying.

Towards the end of the summer in which I was banned I went on vacation to Rhode Island. I brought with me the new computer I had gotten for my birthday. This seemed like a good opportunity to register for the forum again with a low risk of being recognized. I set up a new email account for that purpose.  I would get back on to that forum, I would learn everything that had been said about me there and maybe I would give it a piece of my mind.

 

When Online is Out of Line: The Sting of Betrayal

Although I had been closer to Karen than I had been to Weasel, being blocked by Weasel hurt more. Karen had given me an explanation for why she had blocked me and I had come to believe that she had both of our best interests at heart. Weasel had blocked me with no explanation. I was left to speculate as to why she had done that and I did not believe her intentions were in any way noble.

I kept thinking about how she had consoled me when Karen had blocked me. I thought about how I had said to her “You aren’t going to block me, are you?” and she had replied to me “No, Kira I would never do that. I am your friend always and forever.” Now I felt like an idiot for believing her.

When I told Bernadette what Weasel had done she said “I’m not really surprised. I wouldn’t have expected her to remain loyal for very long.  She flip-flopped on me a few times. She’s a fair weather friend.”

A few hours later Bernadette got the following e-mail from a ninja mod:

“This is a notification that you are henceforth banned from the forum for your creepy, and frankly unhealthy obsession with “outing” a supposed faker and the lengths to which you have gone to dig up proof of faking.

We have examined your proof and found it to be wanting and you are no longer welcome in the community.”

At that point I put two and two together and realized what had happened. Weasel had taken the information I had confided in her as a friend and shared it with the moderators in an effort to get Bernadette in trouble, stir up drama and make herself look good on the forum.  Those questions she had asked me about Bernadette had not been friendly, innocent questions. They had been leading questions meant to get me to spill information that she could use against me and my friend. And I had been dumb enough to fall for it.

The truth was that if anyone had a creepy, unhealthy obsession with outing a supposed faker, it was me, not Bernadette. I had suggested  to her that since those assholes on the forum wanted to accuse me of lying about my life with no evidence to back it up, despite all their efforts to dig for it, we should go back and share the evidence we had found that proved Marcia was a liar. Bernadette had replied that that would be pointless, as the people on the forum would just complain about how creepy and trollish we were and then go back to starting cat threads. They weren’t worth our time.

Neither of us cared that Bernadette had been banned because she hadn’t planned on returning to the forum anyway but boy did Weasel’s betrayal sting. It stung even more than all the nasty things that had been said about me on the forum. At least those people had been upfront about the fact that they did not like me and that they did not care if they hurt my feelings.

Weasel,  on the other hand had pretended to be my friend and to be concerned about me. She had reached out to me at a time when she knew I was emotionally vulnerable and encouraged me to confide in her. Then she had taken what I had confided in her and used it to stab me in the back. She knew full well how hurt I would be at being blocked by her but she did it anyway because tattling on another friend of mine for her own personal gain and pettiness was more important than my feelings or emotional well being.

At that point the emotional progress I had made since being banned from the board started unraveling. My acceptance of the situation had been based on the premise that I still had friends from the board that I could socialize with online. Now I was seeing that those friends could not be trusted and could slip away from me at any time. I felt completely and utterly alone. I was slipping in to a pit of despair.

When Online is Out of Line: Pop Goes the Weasel

While the accusations that I was lying and faking were hurtful to me, they were also helpful. Some of the people on that forum were clearly ridiculous fools. Since they were clearly and unequivocally wrong in their claims that I was a man with multiple internet personalities who had faked my dog’s death, perhaps they were also wrong in their claims that I was a rude, annoying troll who was incapable of thinking for herself . Because as always while there was a part of me that felt those people were judging me unfairly and were wrong about me, there was also a part of me that felt they were right about me.

Weasel told me the names of the people who had accused me of faking. Some of them came as no surprise because they were the people who would constantly attack me on the forum but some of them did surprise me because they had never said anything cruel about me before.

“I was also surprised that some of those people accused you of lying but I’m sure they were just doing it because they wanted to feel like they were part of the crowd. It has nothing to do with you personally” Weasel said.

“They can search the internet for evidence that I’m a liar all they want. They’re never going to find any because I haven’t lied about anything.”

“Exactly. They’ve been digging and all they’ve come up with is ‘Oh yeah, that matches up with what she said.’ ”

I told her about the evidence Bernadette and I had found that Marcia was lying. Her mind was blown. Like me, she’d always disliked Marcia but had never suspected she was a faker.

“Maybe I should go back to the forum and post the evidence we found of Marcia’s lies” I said.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“You’re right. People will just believe what that they want to believe and Marcia is already a miserable person so there’s no point in trying to make her more miserable. It would end up hurting me more than it would hurt her.”

“Do you think Bernadette would do it?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it the last time I mentioned it.”

Weasel also told me that a lot of people on the forum had said they hated that I was banned. When I later asked her who those people were she told me that she’d been cautioned by people on the forum not to share any more information about what was happening on the forum with me and she’d realized they had a point. She wasn’t helping me move on by doing that.

“Okay, I’m curious about what’s been said about me but I understand why you don’t want to tell me.”

“The thread really wasn’t even that bad, Kira. It was mostly concern for you with a smattering of ‘she’s annoying’ from assholes.”

Before I knew it a few weeks had passed since I’d been banned. I was surviving. I wasn’t doing all that well emotionally but I hadn’t been doing well before I was banned either. Those ‘old chestnuts’ of autism and mental illness that according to the forum I used as an excuse for my bad behavior were continuing to wreak havoc on my psyche.

As I thought about the accusations from the forum that I’d been lying about my life, I thought of some of my interesting life stories and was inspired to write some of them down. This wasn’t the first time the forum had gotten my creative writing juices flowing. For Bernadette’s amusement I would write hypothetical scenarios that could occur on that forum. They read like sketch comedies.

I was talking to Weasel every day,  sometimes for hours. We would talk about current events, our personal lives, our likes and dislikes. We shared our past and present experiences and our problems and struggles with each other.

One day when I logged on to messenger eager to talk to her, I was not able to send a message. Thinking there was something wrong with my computer, I clicked on her profile. I saw the yellow X of death. She had blocked me.

When Online is Out of Line: A Silver Lining

Although I was fond of many of the people on the forum and I had a certain attachment to them, I did not consider most of them to be my friends. Karen I did consider to be a friend so losing her her brought a fresh level of pain to my situation.

At the same time, the banning was resulting in me forming friendships with people from that forum. One of the people I became especially friendly with was a woman I’ll call Weasel. I call her that because at one time she had a wild weasel running loose in her house and it became a joke on the forum but as you’ll see later in this saga, the name is also appropriate for other reasons.

I told Weasel about what had happened with Karen.

“I’m sorry. Losing a friend is hard” she replied.

“I wonder if Karen was starting to believe I was a faker like people were saying”

“She doesn’t believe that, sweetie”

“Why do you think she blocked me?”

“It has nothing to do with you personally. She’s just stressed.”

“You aren’t going to block me too, are you?’

“No, Kira, I would never do that to you. I am your friend always and forever.”

I wrote a message to Karen and asked Weasel to relay it to her. It said that I was hurt by what she she did but I understood why she did it and I hoped she would be friends with me again someday.

Karen replied: “Thank you for the message. Honestly, I am very worried for Kira. I think I probably encouraged her in ways that I shouldn’t have and I feel quite guilty over that. It was nice to be able to vent all the things that would irritate me and that was not only a petty thing to do on my part but I kinda feel like I contributed to her demise. Selfishly I don’t want to be banned if I tell her things that are happening on the board, but even more than that I didn’t want to sabotage any good that might actually come from her getting away from the board.

I wish her all the best. She has an amazing mind and is funny and clever and I still like her, I’m just afraid that I’m not good for her right now.”

After that I started to feel a little bit better. I reasoned that Karen might be friends with me again some time in the future, that I was deepening my friendships with other people on the board and that I would no longer be interacting with my cyber enemies. Maybe some good actually would come from me getting away from the board.

When Online is out of Line: “For All We Know She’s Really a Dude!”

Another factor complicating my dealing with being banned from the forum was the shame and secrecy I insisted on maintaining over it. In the aftermath of my banning I reached out to some people from the forum and some people from the forum reached out to me but I would not discuss the issue with anyone who was not a member of the forum.

My loved ones who knew me in real life could sense that I was upset but when they asked me what was wrong I would not tell them. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my therapist about it. I had this fear that she would tell my mother about it or that she would go looking for the forum and find it.

Bernadette said to me “I don’t think your therapist would be able to find the forum or that she’d tell your mother about it and even if she did, so what? I think excessive anxiety about this situation is preventing you from taking steps that would allow you to move on from it as quickly as possible.”

Kevin, one of the forum members I’d reached out to, said “Kira, I can only imagine how isolated you must feel right now and I’m happy to listen but I can’t help but feel that I’m not the best person to talk to about this. I have strong ties to the forum and I’m friends with a lot of the people who went after you. I think you need to speak with someone who can be more neutral.”

Again, I recognized the wisdom in their words and I knew I needed to speak to someone because I was in a really bad place emotionally but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

People continued to talk about me on the forum and I continued to hear about it. Soon the talk turned to speculation about my personal life. Being picked apart like that when I was feeling so down added insult to injury.

In an effort to find out more about me members of the board Googled my name. They posted links to the information they found including my stepfather’s work page and the obituary of my stepbrother, who had died tragically and unexpectedly at a young age.

Several members said they thought I had been lying about various aspects of my life and identity.  Exactly one year to the day before I was banned my beloved dog had died tragically when she suffocated on a chip bag. I had been devastated and had expressed my devastation over the accident on the forum.

Now Cowgirl was suggesting that I had faked my dog’s death. Overall the members of that forum were very intelligent but Cowgirl had never been the sharpest tool in the shed so perhaps she surmised that I had been lying about my dog’s death because her Googling turned up obituaries for my family members who had died but no obituary for my dog.

The accusations got even more ridiculous than that. There were people who thought Bernadette and I were really the same person.  There were people who were suspicious of the fact that I never posted pictures of myself on that forum and said that for all they knew I was really a dude.

Sure, the reason I never posted pictures could have been that I was really a dude but it also could have been because at the time I did not own a digital camera. Plus when I already had a group of people constantly criticizing my character, I didn’t really want them picking apart my looks as well.  Don’t think the members of that forum were above doing that either. One member called another member a confident ugly girl after she posted pictures of herself.

There was general disbelief that my stepfather was really as mean as I said he was. How ironic that a group of people who regularly made the same kind of cruel comments to me that my stepfather made would doubt that a man as cruel as him actually existed.

“The things those people are saying about me are so ridiculous” I vented to Karen.

“It’s all just speculation. You can’t be surprised. This always happens when members are banned.”

“They’re such assholes”

“People were messaging me about you after I said in the thread that I talk to you off the board so I posted that I know you’re real and I know you and Bernadette are not the same person.”

“What were they asking you about me?’

“They wanted to know if you were as consistent with your story off the board as you are on the board.”

“I hate them.”

“I’m not going to tell you about what they’re saying anymore because it’s just upsetting you and I don’t like doing that.”

“They can all kiss my ass.”

“Okay, this is really starting to stress me out. I’m really, really sorry that you got banned. I do not think it was cool. But I’m going to have to step back from the situation. I wish you all the best. I really do.”

And then she blocked me.