MTV premiered their new show Catfish this week (the TV version of the popular documentary on fake internet relationships). Over the summer I had been contacted by some of their production team to tell my story, but because it happened back in 2007 it was no longer relevant enough for them. (This is such a hot topic too, btw. I also got contacted by the Jeff Probst show last week to be a guest.)
Either way, I finally watched the episode just a few minutes ago, and I COMPLETELY broke down.
Sunny's story was my story, and watch her confront her "online relationship" - it blew me away. I immediately started balling. I TOTALLY know that feeling.
There is only one song I can listen to while writing this ...
Alrite, so I've written about this story before, but it was now almost two years ago (and frankly not my best writing), but either way back in 2007 I started working for LiveVideo as a "lifecaster." We were a handful of "charismatic and interesting" kids in LA that were plants on the site to create engaging content and all that fancy stuff. Basically, I was paid to sit there, host a live show from my apartment (fully clothed), and I got to talk to people from all around the world. Having grown up on the internet and literally living my life in chat rooms you have to understand how truly SPECTACULAR this job was to someone like me. I'm naturally a total goof ball so entertaining people for 4 hours at a time was easy, but the fact that this was all online - I mean COME ON!!! This shit was my JAMMMMMM!!!!
Either way, my channel was instantly one of the most popular ones (obvi since I was a plant), but almost immediately one of the regulars in my chat got my attention.
His name was Dare, and his avatar was drop dead gorgeous. Look at that face!!
In the land of "SHOW ME YOUR BOOBS!!!" Dare was a conversationalist, and COMPLETELY respectful. Even with sometimes hundreds of people in the chat he always always always stuck out.
I don't remember exactly when it was when we first started chatting on the phone, but almost immediately he was nagging me to date him. I remember once even spending 4+ hours on the phone with him, and this was AFTER I had just hosted the show where we ALSO chatted for that same length of time. This person just became a part of my existence, and became this thing ... that was always there, and that I could always call or text. I had just gotten out of a relationship at the time so while I wasn't necessarily looking to date anyone, it was a refresher to have that intimacy and connection with another person.
Post after post on my Myspace wall drew further attention from other LV fans.
Are you two together? They would ask in the chat.
No, I kept saying. I'm very single, I would admit over and over.
Dare kept pushing to change that, of course, but I stood strong.
I want your address, he said one day on Myspace.
Logically I should have been freaked out at the notion of giving some random person my address, but again we had been talking at this point for MONTHS hours and hours and hours each night. I know him well enough, I thought.
I then gave him my address and the next day I had two dozen red long stem roses with a beautiful card.
As I called to thank him for the flowers, I then officially became his "girlfriend."
Get on webcam, I said that day. I want to show you the flowers!!
I can't he pressed. I don't have a working one.
Go get one, I would say. They're SO cheap and we can finally look each other eye to eye.
Later, he would say changing the conversation.
Weeks turned into months and suddenly Dare was a daily fixture in my life. From texts in the morning, to visits in my liveshow - this man. was. everywhere.
I told all of my friends in LA about him.
Wait, you met this guy online? They would ask.
No, I said not wanting to seem like some crazy craigslist creeper (amazing how quickly and how much social norms of meeting people off the internet changed). I saw him at a friend's party once, but we never connected. THEN, he just happened to become a fan of my live show, I said in an attempt to cover my tracks.
<tangent> My friends at that time, btw, were COMPLETELY convinced I was doing webcam porn.
Soooo, you get paid to sit on a cam in your apartment? they would ask.
Yes, I said happy and perky.
Absolutely NONE of my friends thought he was real.
He is, I kept saying. He is!!
Dare and I then started talking about taking vacations together, what it would be like to meet for the first time. It was oddly never sexual and considering we were "boyfriend and girlfriend" I never even sent a naked picture, nor did we ever have phone sex.
So weird now that I think about it looking back ...
Either way, one day he surprised me again with a present at my door.
It was the book Love in the Time of Cholera with two tickets sticking out.
I pull out the tickets and see that they are floor seats (third row) to see New Kids on The Block for their comeback tour.
Growing up I was the BIIGGGEEEESSSTTTT Jordan Knight fan, so these tickets meant the WORLD to me.
OMG OMG OMG OMG! I screamed into the phone thanking him. You are SO amazing, I said!!! I love you so much, this is extremely generous of you.
Yep, did I admit that part as well? At this point we had told each other that we loved one another. Strange, since again, we hadn't ever met at that point, but again, this was my honest constant.
I vivdly remember at that point though starting to question Dare and his legitimacy. Are these real tickets? I wondered.
I invited Dare to come along.
Come with me!! Come with me!! I'd LOVE to take you as my date!!
I can't, he said, I have to work.
Alrite, I said a bit disappointed.
I then invited my neighbor Katie, and on October 8, 2008 we went to see NKOTB at the staples center.
As we were walking in, I handed my tickets to the guy at the gate.
My hands were visibly shaking.
Please please please be real, I thought.
The guy then takes the tickets, scans them, and says ... go right ahead.
I exhaled the biggest sigh as my friend turned to me and said, I was hoping those were real.
I said nothing.
We then had an AMAZING time at the show!! Here were some of the videos I took ...
When I got back home, I BEGGED to see Dare.
Please, I said, you've given me this AMAZING gift. I really need to see you and thank you.
Soon, he would say, soon!
We then went back and forth on dates to meet up and EVERYTIME he cancelled moments before he was supposed to arrive.
I cried everytime.
But I REALLY wanted to see you, I would say.
I know, he said with whatever excuse he created. I just can't right now.
We then got into a fight one night and I finally just said ENOUGH!!! I'm getting in my car and I'll be in AZ (where he said he was from) in just a few hours. (I had his address since we had been sending each other packages.)
Those few hours were of course 7 and the time that this journey started was midnight.
I then drove through the night in my beetle convertible with my little dog Rocky Balboa and a 2 liter of Pepsi Max.
I was high on passion, dedicated, and FINALLY wanting for once and for all this to just all be over.
I NEED to meet him!! RIGHT NOW, I thought.
His phone was shut off for the entire drive out, but fortunately because of Google SMS (466453 via text) I was able to text and find the listing for his home phone number.
I'm in your town, I said. Please meet me.
No, he said hanging up the phone.
At this time it was almost 9am so I figured he would go to work. Knowing the name of where he worked, I google SMSed it again and found the address.
In my PJ pants and t-shirt, I walked into the front reception.
Hi, I said, is there a Darien Walker that works here?
The receptionist looked confused.
A man then approaches from behind the desk, we don't have anyone by that name here, he said.
I stared back, shocked.
Uh, alrite. Thank you.
I then got back in the car and headed over to a Dennys confused on what my next move was.
What do I do now? He won't see me, and now apparently he doesn't work where he said he worked.
I don't know in that moment why I didn't go to his house directly, but I felt it was "too invasive."
I was literally insane at that moment, but still not entirely sure what was going on. Still SOMEWHERE in the back of my mind I wanted to admit that he wasn't a fake and that I was maybe somehow just really confused.
I then drove back the 7 hours and cried all the way back to LA.
You would think at that point I would have had enough evidence to call his bluff right?
Dare and I still "dated" for a while longer.
I had finally let someone COMPLETELY into my life, and I was ABSOLUTELY unwilling to just let all of this time spent together go to waste.
The ego does wonderful things kiddies.
He never said why he wouldn't see me that day. He claimed he was just "mad" but either way, by the spring of 2009 we did finally end things.
It was yet another devastation in the form of him not making a trip out to see me, and I just lost it. He came up with this INSANE story about a family member getting hit by a car driven by another family member. Obvi, being a nerd, I IMMEDIATELY googled his story and NOTHING checked out.
I asked a series of questions about everything, which he took as offensive and then said he couldn't be with me anymore.
Yep, to make matters worse, I was DUMPED by my fake internet boyfriend.
I then put Dare out of my mind, and made a conscious effort to just start dating and get back in the game.
I hadn't actually even thought about Dare until September of 2010 when I got this email on Facebook ...
I was floored when I got that email. There's another one, I thought. I'm not the only one.
I remember SHAAKKIINNNGGG as I hit publish. I couldn't believe I was exposing myself on something SO personal and SO shameful.
Who does this happen to? I thought. I'm theoretically speaking SO smart!!! How could I EVER be so dumb!!
I then received a series of threatening emails from Dare, and I stood my ground.
If you're real, just take a picture of yourself holding up a sign with today's date. If I am wrong, I will admit it and remove the story. Until then, I am STANDING MY FUCKING GROUND!!!!!
He then went as far as to contact Squarespace (where I host) and tell them I was in violation of their TOS.
I laughed in my email back to them, as I briefly went into the story.
I am exposing someone who has created a fake identity and is deceiving people. If he is who he says he is I will IMMEDIATELY take it down. All that I am asking is for photographic evidence. Provide that and I will have NO problem admitting I am wrong.
He entirely went away in fact.
Through some internet sleuthing though, you guys were able to find a picture of my ACTUAL internet "boyfriend" and a name.
Meet Sarah, aka Dare ...
It's pretty gnarly that this chick went into THAT much effort to create a fake phone number listing as well, AND when I talked to her on the phone she always used a voice device. This entire situation just creeps me out.
When I talked to the producers last week, she asked me one question in particular that stuck out, "what would you say to anyone who is in your shoes now?"
I immediately said, I just hope they understand that one they are not alone, and that two they should not be ashamed. I played a big role in this dynamic as well, and that was something that my self work with my Shaman has presented, but this experience shaped me for sure. To see that woman tonight get the chance to confront her "boyfriend" (in the episode it was oddly enough also a female to female dynamic) it really touched me. To see this woman place NO wrongdoing on herself, and never even apologize for it was so ... heavy and disassociative. I'd actually love to study the psychology of people like this. I feel like if this girl could just take all of her storytelling talents and translate them into a more healthier medium she could have quite the career on her hands.
Either way, this story sucks and I'm not proud of this life experience. I can proudly say that I am a wiser person and can genuinely spot a fake now from a million miles away.
Rock on nerdy peeps! And here's to knowing you're not alone in this world!!