In eighth grade, a few friends of mine ended up on a massive email list for rave parties at a nightclub — and for whatever reason, the list wasn’t BCC’ed. So we messaged people with funny-sounding email addresses under the alias of a very outgoing, invented 11th grader. One of the fake online relationships lasted for a year.
For anyone who came of age in the Internet era — or really has interacted online at all — these stories are universal. There was the creating of fake email addresses or the making of AIM screen names that replaced a lowercase “L” with an uppercase “I” to prank unsuspecting parties into conversations with people they were not. There was the entering of chatrooms, the stalking of exes under false Facebook profiles, and so on.
Pretty much everyone has a story. I asked a wide array of acquaintances and friends of friends to share their stories. These are the best ones — they include victims, perpetrators, and innocent bystanders.
The white lie with good intentions
I once had an acquaintance who I knew was depressed (because I was reading his LiveJournal), and so to lift his spirits I posted a fake Craigslist Missed Connection for him, saying I had seen him at a bar where he DJed. I knew that he read Missed Connections, and he did find it — he replied to my email and we chatted back and forth a bit. I told him I thought he was cute, but that I was too shy to meet up.
The Tumblr romance that wouldn’t end
So I started following this guy on Tumblr. After sending messages and chatting through the site, we eventually exchanged numbers and went on a few dates. It didn’t work out and kind of ended badly. Lots of drama. So I unfollowed him and eventually had to block him after he started harassing me through Tumblr messages. But the worst part was that he started posing as fake AIM users and baiting me on chat to say bad things either about him or myself. Once I figured out his game, I basically had to cut all ties with AIM and other Internet people I didn’t know very well because I was never sure if it was going to be him or not.
The email from God
My senior year of college, I received this email from the address “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Subject: Serious Concern
It has come to our attention that you have been drinking excessively over the past number of weeks. Although you can’t see us, we see you. Please note this kind of behavior is unacceptable and we will not stand for it. We’re really concerned up here, and as we cannot stage a physical intervention, we send this email in its stead.
Please confirm receipt of this note by replying, or constructing an independent email to email@example.com. Carrier pigeon works as well.
God and the whole gang
I was drunk, and my heart began to race. IS THIS MY PARENTS? CAN THEY SEE ME? I swiftly put down my beer and returned home. My two roommates were in their rooms. I decided to sleep on it. Or rather — pass out.
When I woke up the email was still there — it wasn’t some drunk hallucination! So I questioned my roommate about it. I can’t even remember if at that time I had suspected her. She was thoroughly amused by the whole story and prompted me to respond to it, which I did. I asked specifically WHO “God and the whole gang were” and a couple questions about Michael Jackson’s death (his autopsy report had just been released, so it was definitely a hot topic) and global warming. I hit send and waited for a response.
God never wrote me back.
A week later, I recounted the story to a few friends, when one of my friends’ faces begins to go pale. She waits until I am done and softly says she, too, received such an email, but was so frightened by it that she deleted it and decided to pretend it never happened (she must have been drunker than I was). At this point, my roommate and another friend owned up to being “God.”
The real, but disappointing chatroom boyfriend
The year was 1999 and I was in seventh grade. My friends and I were deep in the throes of our AIM addiction. One day my friend Jenna and I went into a chatroom and started chatting with a guy whose screen name was Dragon52895. He said his name was Rafa, that he was also a seventh-grader, he was from Miami, and that he was hanging out with his best friend Dan. Soon enough, Jenna and I were talking to Rafa and Dan every day after school, sometimes on the phone, and soon enough we were “dating” (honestly can’t remember who was paired with whom). We swapped photos, all promised to meet one day, and Jenna and I thought we were “dating” some adorable, mysterious Floridians.
Much to my excitement, I was going to Miami for Thanksgiving and arranged for the boys to stop by my hotel to meet. I explained the whole situation to my mom, and since I was such a good kid, she cautiously agreed to chaperone. Sure enough, they pulled up in front of the hotel in Rafa’s mom’s car and the two of them came out. Their pictures had obviously been fake: Rafa had braces and terrible skin, and Dan was about 30 pounds overweight. I had nothing to say to them, they had nothing to say to me, and my mom took us for what had to be the most awkward cup of gelato in my LIFE.
The “shared AOL account” and the “friend” in the next town over
When I was in high school, I had a raging crush on a girl in the drama club named Suzy who was slightly older than me. I even broke it off with my then-girlfriend (who I’d been chasing since the fifth grade) just because I thought I was in love with Suzy. We used to chat online, a couple of nights a week, whenever we were both online and bored. Soon she started talking about her best friend who lived in the adjacent town and went to a different high school. They were supposedly friends from summer camp. Suzy claimed they were sharing an AOL log-in, so they could never be online at the same time, but she wanted to introduce us. I was desperate for some way of learning more about Suzy, so I was blind to the obvious and said yes. I chatted with this other girl, “Jasmine,” cautiously at first, guarding my feelings, but at that age, as soon as you have a potential outlet for gut spilling, it’s just a matter of time. I told Jasmine all of my thoughts about Suzy, how I was hopelessly in love and wanted to tell her but didn’t know how. Jasmine told me she suspected Suzy might feel the same way but wasn’t sure. She never confirmed anything or provided any real information, instead speaking in vague terms about how I should follow my heart and that she thought I was sweet for caring so much — just enough to keep me locked inside my own feelings, and not enough to convince me that I absolutely had to do anything about it.
Eventually it was too much for me; I’m not the silent type. Suzy and I went with a bunch of friends to see a movie at the mall. Not enough people drove their own cars, so a couple of us had to take the bus. I sat next to Suzy, and five minutes into the ride, I confessed that I was in love with her (whatever that means when you can’t even drive yet). She didn’t speak to me the whole way home. Come to think of it, she never really said anything about it to me, like it never really happened. At the bus stop, she got picked up by this guy she knew and just left me there. I walked home.
A bit later, I found out that one of my best friends had been talking to Jasmine as well, and as we got to talking about it, we realized something was wrong with this whole story. Through a couple of clues we gathered, from past conversations, we had a rough idea of where Jasmine’s house might be, and what it looked like. So we went, and we knocked on the door, and the real Jasmine answered, with a puzzled look on her face. She knew Suzy, but she had no knowledge of our existence. Not only did she not recognize us, but she was actually Suzy’s friend, and Suzy had failed to mention us even once to her. I’m not sure what was worse, realizing I had been pouring my most private thoughts about Suzy into her lap, or that she never once acknowledged how I felt, at least giving me some form of teenage closure.
We drove back to Suzy’s house and confronted her. All of our friends went. It was a bit of a mess, if I remember correctly. On her front lawn, there was a lot of yelling and finger pointing. My older friends were more vindictive, but I just sort of stood there. She tried to appeal to me — that Jasmine was just messing with us, that it was all real. My friends were having none of it. Suzy and I never spoke again.
Which is a shame, because we really had some nice conversations. She just couldn’t be herself while she was having them, and to this day, I still don’t fully understand why.
The IM friendship with “Emma Watson”
In eighth grade, I joined a Harry Potter chat room and started chatting with a user who claimed to be Emma Watson. I was convinced the user was really her and chatted her for hours on end. I’d brag to classmates that I was friends with Emma Watson, but of course one day the user admitted to being a fake. I remember feeling I’d wasted so much time talking to this person.
The cute dolphin picture that was actually a hacking virus
I made friends with someone on MSN (I grew up in Europe) through a mutual friend and we started chatting, when he said he “heard I was the fat girl at school.” Then he sent me a picture of a dolphin as a peace offering which was in fact, a virus that allowed him to access my MSN messenger — and he started messaging all my friends until I finally figured out how to change my password.
Not so awesome Awesome Anne
I had a friend who had recently been on a sexual adventure with a random girl in an even more random place. This boosted his ego tremendously and he felt he had the sexual prowess of a rap star or a varsity basketball player. Preying on this, I created an AIM screen name called “Awesomeanne” and reached out to him saying I had “heard tales of him” and wanted to get a piece of the action. The conversation started out rather innocently but quickly veered into Fifty Shades of Grey territory. Awesomeanne peppered him with compliments and was not shy in expressing her desire to fellate him. He, a 16-year-old male, was more than happy to oblige, setting up a time to meet during third period so the deed could be done in the confines of his parents’ eight-year-old car. It was interesting to see his “game,” and the conversation was hilarious. I think he gave his little guy a big-guy name, and there were some pretty explicit descriptions of what he planned to do to Awesomeanne.
After having set up a time to meet up, the plan could not continue because Awesomeanne does have a heart (and I also did not want my friend to be stood up because I wanted him to drive me to the neighborhood delicatessen for lunch). When I broke the news, he was too furious for words and signed off of AIM. Although we can look back now and laugh at it, he was not pleased that his honeyed words were displayed for all to see when I printed out the conversation and brought it to school the next day.
Of course, feel free to add your own story in the comments.