When Online is Out of Line : “Evidence”

The attempt to out Marcia for her lies went about as well as I expected it to go-meaning it went terribly. Although most of the board made it quite clear that they were curious about who the faker was and what the evidence that proved her lies was, they also took the opportunity to call Bernadette a troll, a shit stirrer and an attention whore for bringing it up.

Some said they didn’t care if anyone lied about their name or relatives, that people are entitled to privacy and that no one should be forced to reveal every single detail of their lives.

On that board there was no reason anyone would need to make up a fake name or a fake sibling for themselves in order to maintain privacy.  There were plenty of people who just never gave out their names and were referred to by their screen names.  There were plenty of people who never mentioned their siblings or who were only children.

If anyone wants to maintain that those kinds of lies don’t matter and that digging up information on someone like that is creepy or unethical that’s a perfectly valid viewpoint but practice what you preach and don’t throw stones from glass houses.

A moderator sent Bernadette a message chiding her for starting a shit stirring thread and asked to see the evidence she’d gathered. Bernadette forwarded the evidence and pointed out that the board rules said if you suspected someone of faking you could start a thread about it.

The mod replied that if you were going to start a thread accusing someone of faking you needed to name them directly, rather than drop hints and ask questions. Yeah, there’s no way calling Marcia out directly right off the bat would have gone over well either. She would have been criticized for making premature accusations and revealing personal details and would have been told that if she was going to start a thread she should have been more vague about it.

The next day a mod sent a follow up reply saying they’d decided the evidence was weak and did not prove any faking. They pointed out that if she’d just sent the evidence to them they could have told her that and that would have been the end of it but since instead she decided to start a shit stirring thread,  she would be suspended from the board for six months.

“I’m sorry I encouraged you to do this” I said to Bernadette after she showed me the message.

“It’s okay. We talked about the potential consequences. We knew this and worse could happen.”

“I feel like I should have known it would turn out like this.”

“This is disappointing but not surprising. I couldn’t have continued to post on the board and not said anything.”

“So, I guess you can come back in October.”

“I don’t think I will come back. This has left a bad taste in my mouth for the board.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“We can still talk off the board.”

In the thread a moderator posted a message similar to the one she had sent to Bernadette. She wrote that the mods had reviewed Bernadette’s “evidence” and hadn’t found any of it to be compelling. We had to laugh at their use of the term “evidence” because that was the term we used for the proof they supposedly had of Bernadette sending me screenshots. We knew the “evidence” of Marcia’s lies had to be more compelling than that “evidence.” Yet we also knew that whether or not moderators found evidence compelling depended at least partially on how they personally felt about the accuser vs. the accused and the popularity levels that the accusers vs. the accused enjoyed on the board.

The discussion in the thread soon moved on to jokes about faking, expressions of glee that Bernadette was gone and mocking her for things such as her love of The Backstreet Boys and Bernie Sanders.

At one point someone called Garamond said that they’d noticed that when I’d been suspended for two weeks Bernadette had stopped posting for two weeks and they wondered if that was meant as a gesture of solidarity. Garamond stated that if that was the case it showed a surprising level of emotional investment. In the past I’d been told I had an unhealthy level of emotional investment in the board for not wanting to take a break from it for a few weeks. Once certain people on that forum decided they didn’t like you, you were damned if you did and damned if you didn’t.

A board member called Sparky replied to Garamond by saying that she also had noticed that Bernadette had done that and that it would be interesting to see if I also disappeared for six months. Clearly these people felt entitled to talk about me as if I wasn’t there when I was there and clearly that was part of their (perhaps subconscious) plan to continue to make me feel alienated.

Perhaps I should have taken the opportunity then and there to disappear for 6 months (and then another 6 months after that, and another 6 months after that).  It may have spared me some of the humiliation and heartache I endured about 3 months later.

 

When Online is out of Line: Worth the Risk

Even though the rules of the board clearly stated that if you suspected someone of lying on the board you were free to call them out on it, we knew that it would be risky for Bernadette to do so regarding Marcia. Even though those who did online detective work to expose the lies of other members were usually hailed as clever heroes and those who were exposed were usually condemned as lying fools, we knew that in this case there was a good chance Bernadette would be condemned as a creepy stalker and Marcia would be seen as a victim.

Like me, Bernadette was a board target/outcast. Like me she was kind of weird and socially awkward. Like me she had a tendency to say and do things that were perceived by others as annoying, rude or offensive. Like me, she was often accused of  lying, trolling and shit stirring. I’d actually chided her for comments that I found rude or offensive myself and at one point I did believe she was a liar and a troll but once I started talking to her one on one I’d realized that wasn’t the case.

Then of course Marcia enjoyed a position of power, privilege and immunity on that board so any transgressions of hers were likely to be dismissed.

Bernadette decided to contact the site administrator Lorna about the evidence of Marcia’s lying rather than the Ninjas because her interactions with the Ninjas had been less than positive and they seemed rather biased.

Despite the fact that Lorna was the site administrator she actually wasn’t very involved with the forum. She didn’t post there very often, she often failed to address issues with the forum and she’d talked about selling the board to someone else. As frustrating as her lack of involvement with the forum she ran could be, it also meant she was less likely to be biased.

When Bernadette sent the evidence of Marcia’s lies to Lorna, Lorna replied that the evidence was impressive. She said she would talk to Marcia about her lies and get back to Bernadette with what she decided to do about it. Months passed and Lorna never got back to her. Marcia continued to lie and evidence of additional lies was discovered.

Was it creepy of us to dig up that evidence on Marcia like that and attempt to expose her lies like that? Perhaps. Do I feel particularly bad about it? No. Not after the way she treated me and the way she accused me of lying. Not when people on that board dug up information on Bernadette from the internet and presented it to the board, trying to catch her in a lie. Not when people from the board were Googling me, trying to catch me in a lie (more about that in later blogs)

It was ultimately a waste of our time and energy to get so wrapped up in exposing Marcia’s lies but being so wrapped up in the board in general was a waste of our time and energy. In all honesty I Google information about people I know or want to know more about all the time but I prefer to think of myself  as an unpaid private detective rather than a creep. I tend to assume most of the people who are horrified by that kind of thing are hypocrites because they do it too.

Anyway, we grew impatient and frustrated. Bernadette considered “outing” Marcia on the board but we couldn’t think of a good way to do it and we weren’t sure if it should be done.

“You keep going back and forth about this, Kira”  Bernadette said.

“Well, I’m conflicted. I want Marcia to get in trouble but I don’t want you to get in trouble”

“I feel the same way.”

Eventually Bernadette decided she was going to go ahead and do it. She didn’t want to contact the ninjas about it so she decided she would start a thread about it. Naming Marcia as the faker and revealing the evidence right off the bat didn’t seem like a great idea so she decided she would say there was evidence that a member was lying about things such as her name and the existence of certain family members and ask if people were interested in learning more. That didn’t seem like a great idea either but it was the best we could come up with.

“Is potentially getting in trouble over someone you hate really worth it?” I asked Bernadette

“Actually, Kira, I hate her considerably less than you do. I’m doing it in the interest of fairness”

“You know you’re going to get accused of trolling”

“I’ll say “Yep, I’m trolling for a good cause.”

“You might get banned.”

“That’s okay. It’s just a silly website I spend too much time on. I survived for years before I joined it and I’ll survive afterwards”.

“Just make sure you’ve thought through all the consequences.”

“I have. It’s definitely worth the risk.”

“Good luck.”

When Online is Out of Line: An Interesting Discovery

Soon enough my two-week enforced break period was up and I returned to the forum. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t returned. It would have saved me further drama, trauma and heartache. But hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

In fact, during my break Bernadette asked me if I thought I would ever leave the board. I replied “I think I might get banned eventually or the board might shut down” so clearly at that point I could not contemplate leaving.

I though of some things to say to the moderators and to the people who attacked me about the things they had said and done in my absence but in the end I did not say a word to them about it. I realized it wouldn’t do any good because they obviously knew how much they had hurt me and they obviously did not care. By responding angrily I would be giving those people exactly what they wanted. Instead I focused on thanking the people who had said things about me that were helpful or supportive.

As you may recall, the character I call Marcia was the one who said the nastiest things of all about me. Naturally this made her the subject of a lot of the conversation between Bernadette and I and naturally it made us curious about her. Bernadette asked me if I’d ever looked her up on social media. When I replied that I hadn’t she looked her up herself and shared what she found with me.

We had fun snarking on Marcia’s pictures and creating lolMarcia memes. I know it’s not very nice to make fun of anyone’s physical appearance because they can’t help the way they look but Marcia can help the way she treats people so I was pleased to discover that she’s as ugly on the outside as she is on the inside. And her fashion choices certainly don’t help matters.

Then Bernadette snooped on Marcia some more and discovered something interesting. Remember how Marcia accused me of lying about my identity? Well, it turns out she was being dishonest about her own identity.  Internet sleuthing revealed that her first name wasn’t Marcia as she claimed, her middle name wasn’t Ruth as she claimed and her last name wasn’t Jackson as she claimed.

If it seems weird that one would reveal one’s full name on an internet message board and weird that we would care that she was lying about her name, remember that this was a board about names. Marcia talked constantly about how she hated it when people spelled her name Marsha, pronounced it Mar-see-uh and made Marcia Brady references. She talked about how radical she was for keeping her maiden name of Jackson when she got married back in the 70’s. It turned out she’d actually taken her husband’s name of Green when she got married.

She also talked about how much she hated her sister’s middle name, Veruka.  It turns out Veruka is her own middle name and that the sister she calls Airlie appears not to exist. I suppose it’s possible that she just didn’t include her sister on her online family tree (that gave the option of listing a relative but making their name and information private) for whatever reason but despite the ninja’s previous advice, I’m not too inclined to give Marcia the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Let me make it clear that I have no issue with anyone using pseudonyms for the sake of privacy. In fact I’m using pseudonyms for everyone on this blog (I’m even using pseudonyms for pseudonyms-Marcia is not the name the asshole known as Marcia claimed to have) except Airlie, because there’s something very Freudian and funny about having a sister named Airlie who’s a lie you pulled out of the air.

What I do have a problem with is someone having the nerve to claim to have no tolerance for lying of any kind and to accuse others of lying about their identity with no evidence to back it up, when they are lying about their own identity. I wasn’t the only one she took to task for supposedly lying. She once chewed someone out for lying by referring to her friend’s son as her nephew. Funny, considering there’s a good chance her own nieces don’t exist at all. She said she did not think it was okay to lie about names on the forum. Funny, considering she had been lying about names on the forum for years.

The forum in general had a low tolerance for lying. It was made clear that you could choose not to reveal your name or your location but that if you lied about your name, location or pretty much anything else, you would be banned. Many people were banned for lying-sometimes for things like names, dates and locations, other times for things like fake children, fake deaths and fake stories. My personal favorite was the woman who was banned for pretending her dog was a human child.

Members of the board would go to great lengths to root out lies of other members through internet detective work and would take great delight in outing them for their dishonesty on the board. The person who lied would then be banned and the person who exposed them would be hailed as a hero.

The board rules stated that if you suspected someone of lying you could either contact a moderator about it or start a thread to out them.

“So, what are you going to do with the information you found about Marcia?” I asked Bernadette.