Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Internet Friends Are Strangers
One thing that has really struck me as odd about this whole farce is how many of Belle's followers talk about feeling "betrayed" by her. Now, I am going to go ahead and assume that nearly all these people never even met Belle in real life. Their entire relationship with Belle took place online, and that relationship was very one-sided, with Belle doing all the talking and them doing all the listening and praising. Belle Gibson was a complete stranger to them and yet they still felt a huge sense of betrayal by this fraud. The word "betrayal" got me to thinking. Can a total stranger betray you? Surely only a person who owes you any sort of duty to begin with can betray you. Outside contractual obligations, those people are friends and family. When you have a real friendship with a person, you also enter into an unwritten social contract where you promise not to harm your friends. Sure, Belle Gibson owes us all a duty of care in daily life, and as a citizen of Australia she is required to follows its laws. But even a breach of those two things is not a personal betrayal to anyone. I hope this case serves as a lesson to everyone that people we only know online are not friends, they are strangers. Belle's actual real life friends do not seem to feel all that betrayed by her, and I think that is because they knew her in real life, and so they have known for quite some time that something was wrong with her story. In real life we get to see the people we know as they respond to a variety of situations. How do they treat their spouse? Are they flaky in their social obligations? If you loan them money, do they pay you back? Of course there are many more examples I could give, but you get the point. The gist of it is that you have many opportunities to really judge the character of a someone you know in real life, and you don't have those opportunities with people you only know through the internet. Somehow, social media has managed to trick people into not noticing that this very crucial step gets skipped when forming online "friendships".