Like many of us, I spent Thanksgiving with some of the cancer survivors in my family—which is why Cienna Madrid's excellent piece in The Stranger about "Munchausen Syndrome by internet," a disorder characterized by faking illnesses on the intenet, was particularly difficult to read this morning.
But while it's disturbing and angering to read about young women who faked cancer in order to infiltrate online support groups, it's also an incredibly interesting piece about how Munchausen Syndrome—which since 1951 has described people who fake illnesses to attract attention and sympathy—has evolved for the internet age. The internet mutes our "natural bullshit detectors," Madrid writes, since we "can't rely on facial expressions and other physical cues for sensing lies, and studies suggest that without those cues, we're prone to generously fill in the blanks." Which is how manipulative 19-year-old girls are able to trick otherwise intelligent adults into believing that they're suffering from terminal diseases.
Read the whole thing here.