Another, secular gaming community I am involved heavily with has just undergone an instance of what is coming to be called Munchausen by Internet.
Go read the article I linked. No, really, do it right now.
Oh, fine, for those of you who can’t be arsed, Munchausen by Internet is when someone creates an online persona who is constantly undergoing trials and tribulations so they can get attention and sympathy. And, usually when their stories get a little thin, these personas ‘die’.
I’ve seen this a lot over the last fifteen years that I’ve spent online. In the gaming community, once the persona died, other suspicious people started combing the newspapers for obituaries. None turned up, and neither did any police reports or news articles about the grisly accident the persona’s significant other reported to us. Shenanigans were called, and the persona was outed by the gaming community as a sock puppet of another player.
The gaming community is feeling shocked and betrayed, naturally. Some people who sent money and gifts are demanding refunds they will probably not get. And in the chat room last night, the conversation was all about this persona and the betrayal of trust.
I was (for once) actually playing the game and mostly ignoring the conversation until someone pinged me and asked point blank, “Aren’t you pissed off?”
“Not really,” I typed back.
The entire chat room was confused by that statement, and pings rolled in demanding an explanation.
So I cut and pasted the following:
Look, I’ve been praying for [this persona] for weeks now. I’ll still keep praying for [this persona], because it’s terribly obvious they are desperately lonely.
There are a lot of people on this gaming site for whom this is their first experience with MbP, and they are now withdrawing from friendships to protect themselves. And a lot of people who have been burned before and spent the whole buildup to this week’s crash being cynical and inciting the distrust are now saying “I told you so.”
But we’re Christians, and we’ve got that annoying call to forgive others. It means sucking it up, stepping over our bruised pride (because that’s what’s really stinging, the fact we got duped) and saying, “I forgive you for lying.”
Which doesn’t mean ‘Forget it ever happened’, even though it’s starting to take on those connotations in popular culture. It’s unlikely the person from my gaming board will come back, but if they do, I will extend a hand of friendship again but take anything they say taken with a whole shaker of salt.
And pray, pray, pray, ’cause there’s nothing else I can do.