That time the internet victimised me

I’ve been thinking a lot about blog topics close to my heart – and the internet/social media/online relationships is a really important one for me. Not only because of how popular it has become – it is now the biggest part of our lives, let’s be honest – but because we all have our own personal experiences and stories of things that wouldn’t have happened without the internet. I decided I would share one of my personal experiences – one that I don’t talk about much but always wanted to share with you – and throw it out there. Who knows, it might start a whole wave of responses and we can start a community full of people who have been personally affected by ‘the internet’.

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Where to begin…

So, when I was about 14 or 15, I was using a type of social-network website called Faceparty. It was more of a profile-based way of finding people local to chat with – a bit like online dating, but without the dating. It was a bit wacky and tongue-in-cheek – but still, it was one of the first platforms out there so was quite popular.

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Anyway, I got a random message one day from a really good looking guy; he was 16, and I couldn’t believe he was interested in talking to me! And so, we starting exchanging messages for a few weeks and then out of the blue, he just disappeared. And that was the last I heard for months and months. We weren’t close or anything so it didn’t really phase me. But then he reappeared again, about 4 or 5 months later. He confided in me that his mum had sadly passed away from cancer, which was why he had been away from the computer, and was now living with a friend and his family as he didn’t have anywhere to go. My heart melted for him and we started chatting again regularly – until it became pretty intense and we were constantly messaging each other and talking on instant messenger – MSN back in the day – and I started to develop deep feelings for this guy.

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We talked on the phone constantly. I gushed about him to my friends, and couldn’t believe that someone like him would fall for someone like me and we talked about everything. He was cheeky, funny – a typical teenager really. He came across as a jack-the-lad, was openly sexual and always making innuendos. I was the complete opposite, I was shy and reserved, didn’t feel comfortable talking about sexual things as I hadn’t done anything with anybody and wouldn’t entertain his advances. He eventually would start asking for pictures, intimate ones, but I would never relent. I just wasn’t that kind of person – but I later learned he was asking for and receiving pictures from other girls at the same time.

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I knew he was talking to other girls but I always assumed it was casual and nothing implied. He would invite them into group messaging chats and flirt with them to make me feel jealous. My heart would sink but I was so convinced I was the only one for him, I would never say anything. We moved from talking online to texting and talking on the phone – constantly. We would talk whilst we did the washing up, would talk on the way home from school, when we woke up, when we went to sleep. It was constant. If I could describe his voice, it wasn’t deep but it wasn’t high and was soft but with a hard-hitting sense of humour. I enjoyed our conversations. It got to the point that he started introducing more people into my life – his friends and associates. They would join a group chat with us or I’d hear them in the background whilst we were on the phone. It felt like I was part of this little family union and I eventually wanted us to take it further and meet.

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It got to the point where I would be constantly asking if we could meet. We only lived like an hour bus away, it really wasn’t far. He would always make excuses and say he wasn’t free or if he was free that day, he’d laugh and say ‘anyway, I’ve gotta go’ and disappear for the day – only reappearing in the evening. I never had any doubts about his feelings for me though – I just assumed that after such a tough couple of years, he wanted to take things slowly and not risk getting hurt.

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After about 14 months of us talking non-stop, I woke up one morning after a long night of talking to him on the phone. It had ended good, we had talked about the future and the possibility of meeting. I woke up optimistic – convinced we were going to make the next step and meet soon. I switched on my computer – as I did first thing every morning – and opened up my emails. We would always leave each other an email or an instant message for when the other woke up so it was no surprise that there was an email just sat in my inbox. I smiled to myself – until I opened it. (Omg – I’ve just signed into my old OLD email and found it – yay for email hoarding!):

I can’t do this to you no more this will be the last time you ever hear from me again! I’ve done wrong in my life, head is fucked up but I’m engaged to some one who has found out about going behind her back. I’ve burnt my sim cards so I have no number and deleted the sites I can think of. I will now delete my MSN account just after I’ve said sorry! I know you will be crying right now and so am I but sooner rather than later hey! I just hope you can forget me and get someone else! I’m sorry I really am but you was the most amazing person ever and I couldn’t help my love for you but its strained my engagement and now I have to get my head on that and concentrate with the woman I am going to marry. I’m sorry Fran I know you will never forgive me but I’m sorry, have a nice life and I hope you can have someone who isn’t a bastard like me bye Fran 
Oh yeah and the house you saw on google it wasn’t mine either! I live in Manchester! Sorry!

Safe to say, I was confused and upset. I kind of had a feeling it wasn’t true, but that it was a way of getting out of our ‘relationship’. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but that morning I got a new contact request on MSN and recognised the name as one of Luke’s friends. It was the sister of the guy who’s family he’d moved in with after his mum died. We instantly got chatting, webcammed each other to prove it was her, and we talked a lot about this guy and what had happened. She said he’d moved out a while ago and wasn’t sure what he was doing now but had heard about me and wanted to check I was okay – and we really hit it off.

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We became best friends from then on and I would take the hour-long bus to hers, go stay at her house, spend days with her, we’d go and hang out. I met her friends over time who became my friends and I told her everything. Whilst out in the car with her, she’d make comments that he had just drove past us or had contacted her during that day. I had accepted what had happened and didn’t let it bother me that he seemed to be ignoring the fact I was around.

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After about a year of being friends with her, and meeting her friends, the guy reappeared on the scene and appeared to be dating one of her friends I had hung around with. Everything looked great on social media, I had no reason to question it. Sure, I was a little disheartened he’d met up with her and not me, but whatever. Not my problem anymore. It got to the point where I was getting questions from people about him – about if we’d ever met mainly. I was always really defensive about it and didn’t want to indulge their gossip so I would change the subject and avoid the topic. This went on for months and months and months. In the meantime, the guy and his girlfriend seemed to be hitting it off, posting pictures of valentines gifts and statuses about being together. There was a group of us who had never met the guy but all talked to him, and from what I could see on Facebook, he had made plans to finally meet them all on this particular weekend in February 2010.

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In February 2010, I was just about to turn 19. In the early hours of my 19th birthday, I got a text whilst asleep from my friend to say the guy had been involved in a car accident and tragically died. I was absolutely distraught and inconsolable. This guy had been in my life for over 5 years, on and off, and I couldn’t believe he was gone without the chance to settle our differences or meet. My birthday was ruined and I couldn’t grasp the situation. I spent all day, and the days that followed, looking at their local newspaper online waiting for details of a serious collision to come up. But it never did. Everybody was in bits, though. My friend told us we weren’t allowed to attend the funeral as his family were ‘Italian – and prefer to keep funerals private’. We obviously respected their wishes. My friend went with his girlfriend to get tattoos done of his name, and his handwriting from the cards he had given her in his memory.

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A few months later, my Grandad passed away. Whilst grieving over his loss, just a week later, I started becoming inundated with messages again about me and this guy, our ‘relationship’ and if we’d ever met. It was the final straw. 5 years had passed and I just couldn’t understand why people were so obsessed with whether I had met him or not. I lost my rag and sent out a message saying I was no longer interested in this crap and to never contact me again in relation to that matter.

 

And then – that’s when it all changed.

 

I received a reply to my message from a girl I had spent time with whilst over at my friend’s. She told me that the guy I had been talking to for over 5 years did not exist – and that for the entire 5 years, I had – in-fact – been talking to the girl who had become my best friend.

 

It was like the world had come crashing down around me. This person – both of them actually – who I had invested time and affection into relationships with them had both been a complete lie and I had fallen hook, line and sinker for every single one. I instantly messaged the girl and asked what the hell was going on. She never apologised – she made up excuse after excuse about being brainwashed by someone else to do it. She changed her story over and over, and the last thing I said to her was ‘our friendship has been a complete lie’ and then she disappeared.

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It was so hard to come to terms with the fact that I had lost not just one, but two people I had loved – even though they were the same person. It became obvious that the girl was harbouring gay feelings, and was struggling with her sexuality and that was why she did it, I believe. She was always the alpha-female in her friends groups and to admit she was gay would have been so difficult – she had a boyfriend for the majority of the time we were friends. But again, it took me a good couple of years to understand why she had done it – but she shouldn’t have deceived people in the process. The poor girl who was his ‘girlfriend’ before he died; she had handwriting on her arm that was actually the handwriting of the girl who had gone with her to get the tattoo. It was so twisted.

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But, I think she realised she was in too deep and that was why she tried to cut it off. She killed him off hoping everyone would forget and move on – but she failed to acknowledge that she had dragged this on for 6 years – and had connected with tons of people in that time. She made a big mistake by intertwining her male alter-ego with her personal life and the two became a mess together. So, where she thought people would forget, she forgot in the process her friends were now also his friends. They weren’t going to forget. It turned out that two of our friends had been suspicious for a while and had been doing some digging. When they realised there was no record of an accident or a death, and that this girl had never actually met this guy, they put the pressure on and she broke down in the backseat of a car and let it all out. It must have been a huge release but it wasn’t taken lightly by everybody.

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We considered whether we should go to the police. A few girls had sent her/him intimate pictures of themselves over the years and felt they had been manipulated. I luckily had not, but there were lots of girls. She had obviously become so engrossed in seeing whether or not she definitely did like girls, she had hurt a lot of people in the process and violated their privacy and trust. I was hurt for them. But we realised she was obviously mentally unwell and had already lost more than enough as she had no friends left in the end. I’m not sure if her family found out but I’m guessing they will have done as everybody talked where they lived.

 

As for me, I just moved on from it. I don’t talk to anybody from there now; I guess in a way I’m relieved it happened as the drama it caused throughout those years (she liked to cause trouble through him) was really stressful and I was sick of it by the end. I’m sorry that I wasted many years on him; I turned good people away because I held on to hope that what I had with this guy was going to be real. This girl tried to break up relationships I was having. It was all just a mess. I’m sad for her, because she was obviously so confused and unhappy in herself, she was pushed into doing something like this – and her feelings were much more damaging than the idea of ruining other people’s lives. I guess when she started out, she never intended on taking it as far as she did. She likely set up the profile just hoping to chat to people and see if she was believable as a guy. But she met good people, developed feelings I’m guessing and just dug herself into a hole that she couldn’t get out of. After 6 years, the hole became too deep and she had to find a way out.

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I believe she has now come out – and seems to be living a happy life. I sent her a message a couple of years ago just saying I hoped she was okay and that I forgave her, basically. I had been thinking about her a lot and had found her online. I was torn between sending a message filled with anger and questions – but I realised time had passed, and I didn’t feel ill towards her anymore. I felt empathy for her situation and understood it was never meant to go as far as it did. So, I have forgiven her and moved on. But it’s always an interesting story. People always say to me ‘but how could you not have known?’ – back then, webcams weren’t popular and not everybody had one. So, it wasn’t weird when someone said ‘I don’t have a camera’. Why would anybody question somebody who has pictures of a guy, sounds like a guy, acts like a guy? The word ‘catfish’ (in this situation) didn’t even exist then.

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But, it’s an interesting story, one I’ll never forget anytime soon anyway. If you have a catfish story you’d like to share, let me know in the comments or tag me in your blog posts! I’m always intrigued to read about others’ experiences. Hope you enjoyed reading about mine.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow I couldn’t stop reading this, such an interesting story thank you for sharing! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Goodness, you have a lot of patience. I could not or would not wait so long to meet someone. Then again, social media wasnt around for me at that age, thank goodness. Very interesting story. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. francescawho says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Well, I wasn’t involved with the ‘guy’ for most of those 5 years, I moved on and was friends in real life with the girl who turned out to be the guy! Just shows you can’t take someone at face value, I would never have suspected!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a crazy world

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your story shocked me, can’t believe how long she kept the lie going…
    Your poor head must’ve been wrecked when you discovered the truth!

    Really fantastically written Francesca, as always. I always look forward to your posts xx

    Like

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