Recently, I read something on another IF blog that caused me to feel very sad and hurt. And then, after a few minutes, I realized that I also found that I had reason to doubt the blogger’s veracity.

For reference, you might want to read this article about Munchausen by Internet.

I will not identify that blogger here. If I am right, then the response to “outing” her will not be pleasant, and as I don’t see that she’s done anything to cause anyone material harm, it’s better to let lie. If I am wrong, then I will have caused hurt to someone who has already experienced enough hurt.

Moreover, in this case, I don’t believe that she is a textbook case of Munchausen by Internet. I do, however, believe that she is bending the truth for the purpose of attracting attention and is not able or chooses not to understand how that impacts (other) infertiles. She certainly has demonstrated a desire to be a part of this particular disease community, which baffles the hell out of me. (Y’all are super, no doubt, but I’d give anything not to belong here.)

My response is simply to unsubscribe and forget her.

It begs the question, though: at what point do we judge someone to be dishonest for the purpose of gaining attention and sympathy?

According to the article mentioned above, “A 2011 case report on factitious disorders published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience suggests that roughly 9 percent of inpatients in tertiary care (specialized treatments, like cancer care) suffer from some form of factitious disorder.” It’s impossible to get accurate statistics on the rates of Munchausen by Internet, but we’re bound to encounter some, even if we don’t mail them checks for $2,000. We have read their posts and left comments with our support.

I’ve thought about this, because I have in the past met people in person whom I’d met previously online – dating, hobby groups, and so forth. I’ve never been burned, to my knowledge (although there were some spectacularly terrible first dates in there).

My personal standard is this: if someone you’ve met online asks you for money, turn away.

Online friendships should be like dating. If I’m ever in the same part of the world as some of the ladies with whom I’ve corresponded, I think we might enjoy meeting for coffee. Perhaps dinner. If we hit it off, we’ll take it from there.

I’m curious to know if others have experienced anything like this, and, if you have set rules, what those rules might be for your online friendships.

Please don’t point fingers or name names in the comments. Not that you would.