Many years ago when I was new to the concept of social media and internet trolls I stumbled across a Facebook profile using the screen name ‘Marthur Mowgli’ who would find memorial pages set up by family and friends of someone who had recently deceased and write the most despicable things in the comments. The reason I remember this person is because I started a very odd online friendship with him via private messaging; he did eventually tell me his real name but despite him probably being an insane serial killer I feel bad revealing his true identity. I can tell you he lived in North Carolina and when I was 15 he was 20. Thinking about it though MM could be a mask of another fake persona that he had given to me to lull me into a false sense of security and trust. How would I have ever known?
MM messaged me after I had replied to a series of his comments on these RIP Facebook pages. It wasn’t too difficult to follow his online movement: every ‘popular’ memorial page, whether the person had been on the news or simply had a lot of ‘likes’ and activity, he was there. I joined as many as I could and questioned him, belittled him, pitied him. It only made him worse and I eventually realised that my attention was fueling him. Thousands of people wrote back angry comments in an attempt to get rid of him but in every one of my own comments I asked “why?”. WHY was he doing this? As soon as he appeared in my inbox I started to regret ever speaking to this psychopath and convinced myself he knew where I lived and was going to silence me the only way he knew how.
“Why?” – his message read. So simple yet ambiguous, so unexciting yet alluring. Don’t reply Ciretta, I told myself. This was long before the ‘seen’ application had been added to Facebook messenger in which the person you were conversing with could see if and when you had read their message. He’d never have known I’d opened it if I had just left it alone. But I couldn’t. I can’t remember how the exact conversation went but I know I asked “why what?” and within a month we had started to message each other every day. He explained to me his negative view on Facebook memorial pages and I explained how much he was hurting people that were mourning. Unbelievably this guy seemed to take what I was saying on board and I didn’t find any more comments from ‘Marthur Mowgli’ once he’d told me to add his ‘real’ profile after a few weeks. Whether that profile was fake too I guess I’ll never know, but at the time I interpreted this as a sign of trust and we continued conversing from there.
MM and I spoke about life and love and people. We told each other about our hopes and dreams and tried to motivate each other with our aspirations (mine – writing, his – music). It baffles me thinking about how much I and thousands of others originally despised this internet troll what with my positive memories of him now.
I knew he was messed up and was very careful not to give out any personal information. I had blocked all of my private details and profile pictures from both his Facebook profiles just in case he was an axe-wildering maniac and our friendship relied only on the words we typed out each day. He never pressed to learn more about me and didn’t pressure me in to trusting him or relying on him – some comfort about this guy developed naturally because he knew NOTHING about me and only saw what I allowed him to see. It was a friendship I could not compare to any other simply because I chose what he knew and he knew he was doing the same. We could tell one another things we’d never tell anyone else as neither of us came across as judgmental people and even if we were those opinions would in no way effect our ‘real lives’.
The reason I am telling you this story is not as some kind of “BE CAREFL AROUND STRANGERS THEY WILL FIND YOU AND KILL YOU” rant, although that is probably alright advice to keep in mind. I’m still here, nothing ‘happened’. About a year after I first encountered MM I deleted my Facebook profile just for a bit of a break from social media. We said our farewells and promised that once I inevitably made a new profile we’d get back in touch and carry on where we left off.
Too short of a while later, feeling cut off from the outside world (it’s sad how deleting Facebook makes you feel like that, right?) I got back online and deleted MM and his ‘real’ profile. A while later I received a message from him saying “:)” and nothing more. He did not try to add me again and while searching for his profile the next day found he had blocked me. I’ve never been able to find him since. I like to think that we both felt satisfied with how far our friendship could possibly go under the circumstances and his last message was a way of showing me there were no hard feelings – he understood.
Sometimes I pass a stranger in the street and we make eye contact and I convince myself it’s him. I know that he could have easily been a middle-aged fugitive with row after row of jars containing eyes of his victims in his log cabin in the woods. He could have been an old lady with grandchildren who wore those old-fashioned nude pantyhose. He could have been a 12 year old with a vivid imagination and hippy parents that made him try hallucinogenics in order to ‘expand his way of thinking’. I don’t know.
68% of people ‘share’ a Facebook photo as an advertisement for themselves – to give others a better sense of who they are (http://oginenergy.com/sites/default/files/Contagious-Content.pdf). Isn’t every social media profile a façade? We choose what/how to update or upload or share in a way that allows us to come across as the person we want everyone to see. Everyone reckons clicking on a profile is a window in to their world when in fact it’s only what they want you to see – and they want you to see it for a specific reason. How different was my friendship with MM to the friendship we have with the people we know are ‘real’, but only have contact with online? And the amount of time we spend reading what other people have to say and comparing ourselves with them and their pictures and the amount of likes they have on their whatever – how much of that is the real them?
Just something to think about when your self-esteem is affected by something you read from someone online. The next time a cutesy couple posts a picture of themselves baking cookies captioned “OMG so yummeh, and I’m not talking about the cookies teheheheh” a small part of me will remember my friend MM and how I really knew nothing about him. His first profile was a way for him to put a message across: his disdain for Facebook memorial pages and the people that created them. He wanted to provoke and be disliked. His second profile was a way for him to connect with another person. He wanted to be understood and admired and to build a friendship. One person with two agendas and two profiles in order to do that effectively. Who knows if either of those were the real him? That cutesy couple might be falling apart, and need validation from their friends in order to convince themselves they can work. A few likes on a picture of them doing something adorable like baking can actually provide that – trust me I’ve been there (although not with baking, I need to stay away from kitchens for health and safety reasons).
I dunno. I think we can all take something from that.