Hello and welcome back. Today, I’m coming with another storytime post. I’ve been thinking for quite a while whether I should post this, but I feel like the story is so unusual that it’s worth sharing. Until now, only 3 of my friends have heard about it.
I’ve always been more active online than in real life, so quite naturally I made a few online connections – some of them broke, some of them stayed. But there was one that made me completely baffled and it remains a mystery up to this day.
The first time when my online life outgrew the real one happened when I was in high school, around 6 years ago. I left a comment under a YouTube video and for some reason community liked it enough to bring it to the top and leave it there for a while. One guy saw it and wrote a private message to me regarding what I said. A few messages exchanged, we started talking about random things. He seemed… lonely? Lost? A little weird for sure. In one of his first messages he told me he’d almost died twice due to overdosing drugs. He said he’d nearly killed himself when his girlfriend left him. He seemed like he needed a friend… and so did I. The initially weird story grew to extreme levels though. Between the lines he told me how his parents died when he was a child, how he grew up abroad, living with distant family, how he trained his favourite sport and now lived off it, travelling around the world, taking part in competitions. The sport was very specific and rather expensive to do, only a few do it on an international level. Curiosity killed the cat they say… I googled everything. I quickly figured out who he was claiming to be, he also eventually sort of confirmed it using a name to sign one of the messages instead of his YouTube’s username. However, not all pieces of the story he told me matched the info I could find on Google. And I could find a lot, as the said person was actually one of the best in his popular yet elite discipline. It wasn’t even only about details – some basic facts didn’t match either. Dead parents? Then why can I google thousands of photos of him and his living father? He got injured and sent me a photo of him with crutches? Too bad the photo was taken 2 years earlier and was published by one of sports websites. He says he’s going to an old friend’s funeral in his hometown, and while the ceremony should be in progress, his official Twitter posts about an event he’s taking part in, in a completely different part of the world. And finally, last but not least, dogs. He – the real person I was talking to – had two and loved them above anything else. He kept sending me photos of them… never them and him at the same time though, wonder why. Google has never seen a photo of ‘him’ with the dogs, and he claimed to always take them with him, to whatever part of the world he was going for a competition. You don’t have to be a genius to realise there was something odd about the entire story. And as I started questioning it, he switched to the defensive ‘why do you not trust me when I love you’ mode. (Oh, yeah, after a few months of daily talking he actually said he loved me.)
I had no idea how to talk to him. He was obviously making up a huge part of ‘his’ life, or rather borrowed it from someone else, thinking I wouldn’t notice (? really? how can you not notice that!?). Of course, there are thousands of people pretending to be celebrities. But his case was different, he didn’t straight away claim to be that certain person, it all very slowly grew to eventually get to that point. I know, it was all a lie. But on the other hand… first of all, he seemed lonely and lost, and I didn’t want to hurt a person that had had suicidal attempts before. Secondly, between the lines of that made up story he seemed like a very nice, caring, fragile person. Always supportive and paying compliments. Great friend of animals of all kinds. He also actually seemed like a wealthy person (judging from the background of the numerous dog photos I was sent) – and since he didn’t have a serious job (or at least I doubt he did), he might have been from an environment that could possibly fund a sport like the one he claimed to train. And last but not least, he never tried to use that fake identity for his advantage – it seemed as if he just wanted some bio to go along with his personality, but he never really tightly stuck to that background. I really wanted to solve that situation in the least disastrous way possible. I thought that maybe he’d made that story up to increase his chances of finding a friend to talk to, so I tried telling him how I didn’t care about who he was, as I respected and liked his personality that I saw in his emails. But he seemed to desperately want to stay delusional and believe in the entire story he’d built.
I started university and had less and less spare time, it was also the time when I knew for sure how unreal the made-up story of his lifetime was. Finals came, I had plenty of work and also got ill – didn’t check for emails for a couple of days. He got worried – okay, I get that. He wrote to my Facebook friends, asking about me (he’d found me on Facebook a few months earlier) – woah, wait. He wrote to my friends? What?! I did not sign up for that. I don’t know if he actually did that (none of my friends told me about any weird messages regarding me and I didn’t ask), but just the thought of it was terrifying. I got mad and from that point our relationship started to die out. I wanted to be a good friend, support him regardless of all those lies (yep, good auntie Alphe, supporting a suicidal liar), and in return I also had a friend to talk to – something I desperately needed at that time. But it was too much for me. I felt beset. Slowly but surely, the connection broke after a bit over a year from its start.
Was it a regular catfish? I wouldn’t say so. He seemed genuinely involved in that relation, remembered every detail about me. And not only then; he kept writing to me for my birthday/Christmas/other holidays for the next 4 years, every time only getting a short, generic response – except for the last one which remained unanswered, and that’s probably why he never wrote again. But he still remembered me. I have a feeling that he was so desperate to make a connection with me that he felt like he needed to create a story that would appeal to me and keep me interested. I don’t know, however, why he decided to stick to it when I clearly knew it was all a lie and suggested starting over, without making things up.
It remains probably the biggest mystery of my life. I’m really curious about who he really is and why he refused to ever admit his life wasn’t how he pictured it to be – especially since he actually told me about some dark sides of his past that most people wouldn’t want in their created perfect lives. I’ll most likely never find out.
The aftermath, aside from the left unsolved riddle, also includes my highly increased online privacy awareness. That mostly affected my Facebook profile, I changed all settings to private, visible to friends only (something everyone should do to be honest, and many people still don’t). I don’t use my personal data anywhere online (unless it’s official stuff that I fully trust).
Funny thing though, that didn’t stop me from making new online friends, I was just a lot more careful with them – and it was totally worth it, I gained great friends from different countries that I fully trust, that I can fully rely on and that I met (or am about to meet) in person.
Have you ever got into a strange online relationship with someone?