I want to share a true story of a really true friend of mine Manessah B.
She says :
There are many great and wonderful people online and, unfortunately, there are monsters too. I’m learning to embrace every experience and try to find the good out of every situation, even the painful ones. This experience taught me that I should be more careful with my heart, especially online, but at the same time it taught me that my heart was not completely closed like I thought.
Once upon a time…
A young woman ventured into cyber woods and found shelter on WordPress. In her possession was a basket filled with poetry and prose ready to be shared with the world. She eagerly placed all of her poems and thoughts on the window sill of her blog like freshly baked pies and waited for the scent to attract the attention of other digital forest dwellers.
The young woman smiled with glee, as people came to sample her words, but in the midst of her happiness tragedy struck. Just days after starting her blog, she received news that a man she cared deeply for had passed away. The poor woman was already recovering from two major surgeries and coping with her second close encounter with death. Now, she had to deal with the loss of someone dear to her heart. Devastated and overwhelmed with pain, the young woman wrote her heart out and placed her feelings of grief on the window sill of her blog, not thinking about the scent of vulnerability and naivety that was pervading the pixelated air.
Exactly a week after airing her words of sorrow, a mysterious man came knocking upon her blog door. Cloaked in anonymity, he sung praises of the young woman’s poetry and prose, even shared her words with the people of his village. Humbled by his kind words and gestures, the young woman extended her thanks to the mysterious man, but did not let him enter through the door.
She was about to turn away, until the mysterious man mentioned that he, too, had lost someone he loved. Softened by empathy, the young woman opened her door and was greeted with eyes like kyanite. The mysterious man then told her a story of how he had lost his wife to cancer and how he had been a widow for ten years. Even after her death, he still remained devoted to her and never had success moving on. Upon the window sill of his blog, the young woman found poems speaking of his dead wife and she felt great sorrow for him. The two connected on their shared grief and eventually became blog friends. A few weeks into their newborn friendship, the mysterious man quickly professed that he was in love with the young woman and tried to convince her that he was Prince Charming. On the window sill of his blog, he left the most beautiful poetry for her and she was then gifted the title of Muse. Though she was flattered, the young woman expressed to the mysterious man that she could not reciprocate his feelings because she did not feel that it was love. After all, they did not know each other and it was far too soon to develop such feelings. However, the mysterious man persisted in his pursuit of the young woman and insisted that it was indeed love that brought them together. After months of wooing the young woman, the mysterious man finally broke her down and convinced her that it was love.
Normally, this would be the part where I would say, “And they lived happily ever after”, but I’m afraid this fairy tale has a dark and bitter ending.
You see, there was no magic castle or kingdom, nor was there ever a prince. In the midst of their fairy tale love, Prince Charming’s spell over the young, naive woman began wearing off and her eyes suddenly saw the tail under his cloak.
With his love bombing losing its effect on her, the young woman discovered that Prince Charming was a vicious wolf and she was his prey. The identity he gave her was completely made up and the tragic story of losing his wife to cancer was all a fabricated tale. The poems he had written about her death were all part of the act and the promises he made of marriage and a life together were now shards of broken dreams, because he was already married. What made it worse was finding out that she was not his first victim. Sadly, there were others. When the young woman discovered she had fallen for a wolf, she ran away from him and hid. She was devastated, humiliated and felt dirty. The young woman questioned what did she do so wrong to deserve such ruthless treatment? ’Til this day, she still asks herself that question. How do I know this?
Because I’m the young woman.
Life teaches us that we are not always prepared for every situation. Even the most levelheaded and cynical people will have moments when they are vulnerable, naive and not that quick to perceive danger when in the presence of it. The harsh reality is some men and women are really great actors and preying on the inexperienced and unaware, for them, is simply a game. Using cancer, death and even abuse are not off limits for some people when it comes to the backstories they create to earn the trust and empathy of their victims. I share my story with you in hopes that it can help you avoid the pitfall I had two years ago.
PASSING WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ON TO YOU
Just like a shark can smell blood, vulnerability can draw in the attention of social media wolves. When bearing your soul in your posts, be aware that predators are always watching and any sign of pain and emotional weakness can be used to get close to you.
Be wary if someone you just met is suddenly love bombing you and pressuring you to have a romantic relationship with them. Rushed romance can sometimes be used as a tool of manipulation. If things are moving too fast for you, don’t be afraid to slow things down and tell the person you don’t feel the same way. If they persist, stand your ground and get firmer. When they see they are not getting anywhere with you, they’ll catch the hint and move along.
Ask questions and, sometimes, ask the same question in a different way. By doing this, you open the door to finding any inconsistencies that may be lurking in a predator’s stories.
I hope that you never experience a dark internet fairy tale and I pray you never encounter the big, bad wolves of social media. However, if you do, I hope that my story and the lessons I have learned can serve as a guide on how to protect yourself while living in these cyber woods. Be safe and, whatever you do, don’t let any wolf steal your happily ever after.