The Psycho Network; Facebook’s darker side
Okay, so it’s been a long day and I decide I’m going to crash out in front of the TV. I browse the listings and come across a program called CATFISH; a documentary about some guy who meets his dream girl on Facebook.
Set in the USA, this program is basic in its format but for those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of watching, (and chances won’t because it is not currently available from 4 On Demand, much to the dismay of many) it has got to rank as one of the creepiest things I have seen in a long time.
In brief, boy (Nev), who happens to be a photographer/film director, has a picture published in the paper. A few days later he receives a painting rendition of his photograph from an 8 year old child prodigy (Abby) who, it turns out, happens to be a successful painter. Nev becomes friends with Abby on Facebook where he then has the pleasure of meeting (albeit virtually) the rest of the family: Her mother (Angela), her brother, her father, their friends and Abby’s older sister, Megan with whom Nev becomes smitten. He adds all of them as ‘friends’ on Facebook and regularly corresponds by wall postings, emails and the sharing of photos and videos. Not only is Megan beautiful but she has a beautiful family.
Nev also keeps in regular contact with Megan and, occasionally, her mother (Angela) by telephone until he can no longer bare the distance and decides to make the journey from New York to Michigan to see her. This is when the unravelling of one of the most tangled webs begins. It starts with Megan dedicating a song to Nev (one that she allegedly sang herself). Only he discovers that the tune was actually recorded by somebody else and is from a YouTube post. Things go downhill from there until Nev shows up on Angela’s doorstep.
He discovers that Megan is actually forty (or fifty) something year old Angela and that she has two mobile phones; one for Angela and one for her alter ego, Megan, and that ‘Megan’ (when not talking to Nev on the phone) is busy fabricating a whole fictitious world around herself on Facebook. With me so far? This includes creating no less than 13 profiles (alter egos) of people who played the part of family members and friends. The alto egos would post comments and pictures to Facebook at different times, would reply to each other’s posts and would message Nev about each other.
Why? Because she ‘loved Nev’s smile’ and didn’t want to ‘lose his friendship’.
It turns out that Angela is a pretty sad character. She married a man with two seriously handicapped children and gave up her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer many years before to stay at home and care for them full time. She does have an 8 year old daughter called Abby but she hardly paints, the artist is Angela. Nev also goes onto learn that the picture of Megan actually belongs to a a model/dancer who is already happily married to another man. She is no relation to Angela just somebody whose pictures were ‘stolen’ by Angela to play a role.
I would have to say that I found this story deeply disturbing but not because I’d never heard of anything like it before but more because of the emotional impact it had on Nev. Angela selfishly trifled with his emotions to satisfy her own deep sadness, loneliness. I don’t even think she has a screw loose (as much as many will think she did), I believe she simply got herself into a very sad situation from which there was no easy way out. She enjoyed Nev’s attention and enjoyed flirting with him.
Whatever Angela’s motivation, the reality remains that whilst the virtual age has bridged oceans and joined continents it’s also opened up a whole new Pandora’s Box of human suffering which in turn is fuelling an already cynical world. They say that if Facebook were a country, it’d be the third largest, and what a beautiful country it’d be albeit one not without its own depravity.