news item: “the lying disease” by cienna madrid

We are all here, reading this article, because we have some connection to a specific type of hardship. We come to this gathering place from all over the world to be together for support, conversation, and sometimes just cute photos of babies. We have that in common, and sometimes not much else, but grief, loss, suffering and tribulations that sometimes give way to great joy are all strong platforms from which to make connections with others.

The internet is a funny place like that– anytime you open up a widely-accessible form of communication and the general exchange of information, you cast a wide net. You could catch a whole boatload of fish one day and a hundred scummy old boots the next. Of course, there’s a screening process– when you make friends online, you usually check them out, even if just subconsciously. Does this person seem rational, kind, helpful, intelligent? Are you getting the “too much drama, do not engage” vibe? Are there any other red flags popping up, even ones that can’t be explained?

We check each other out a bit, of course, but the truth is that if you’re here or in any other online topical group with a focus on friendship and support, you’re looking to like people and to trust them. We may not all use our real names or identify ourselves and our children with photos in our blogs, but we engage in a lot of automatic mutual trust with our emotions. I could blog under a pseudonym but I’d still be telling you about Crinone tablets going up in my you-know-where and what it felt like to give myself injections for the first time, or some unflattering thoughts I’ve had about people I love who had children when I still didn’t, or how I still have leftover expired medication in my fridge that for some reason I can’t throw away… all these things I need to keep separate from the people I know and love in my daily life for a variety of reasons end up on the screens of strangers (many of whom, of course, have become great friends).

We can wrap ourselves tightly in the love and support of distant friends, even when we haven’t yet met in person. I have some great, lifelong friends who I met online three, five, even up to fourteen years ago, and I’ve met almost none of them in person. But of course, it has to be said– we have to be careful with our hearts and our personal information.

The inspiration for this post? An article that came across my Twitter feed last week called “The Lying Game,” written by Cienna Madrid.

I’m not going to post excerpts from the article here like we normally do in news item posts. This article is skillfully written, it covers a range of really intense, in-depth and complex situations, it makes some poignant and sobering points, and it is long. There’s no way to do it justice in fragments here. All I can do is strongly recommend that you sit down and read this article when you have time to really think about it, and I promise it will pay off because it is fascinating and reads like a great and terrible tale.

I also don’t want to cast too many shadows here. I love our community. In the beginning, myself and the other PAIL mods had a brief conversation about comment moderation given the new-ness of the site and the sensitivity of the topics of infertility, loss and parenting, but we quickly decided against it, hoping instead to take a chance on people being kind and supportive and generally behaving themselves. Do you know that we’ve never once had to delete a comment here for content? Not a one. We’re really hoping that tradition continues, because in the midst of all of the myriad ups and downs of parenting through adoption, infertility and loss, and all of the personal highs and lows that any number of us are experiencing at these different places in our journeys, everyone has remained at the very least cordial and, far more often, incredibly helpful and supportive. My intention here is not to scare anyone away from embracing what we’ve been trying to build this space for and what you’ve all been cultivating here– but as bloggers, it is imperative that we be alert to the potential draw of a community like ours for someone who might be seeking a different sort of experience than the rest of us all together– it’s happened once before.

Okay, I know I just threw a heavy one at you, and a long homework assignment to boot in that lengthy article. So before you get around to reading it, or after, please join in our conversation below because I bet we all have a few things to say about online support, safety, anonymity, friendships and connections.

Share. Visit. Read. Comment. Support.



  1. I wrote a post on this today as well….here’s my link:

  2. sangela71 says:

    Such an interesting article; thank you for sharing it. I had read about the “Warrior Eli” story earlier this year, so I was aware of Munchausen by internet before. Fascinating the lengths to which some people will go to get attention.

    I must say that I have never run across an infertility/adoption/loss blog where I thought the writer was a fraud. And I’ve read hundreds over the past four years. Maybe I *have* run across some frauds and just didn’t realize it?

  3. This article really struck a chord with me. When I started blogging I sat down one night and wrote the previous year of my hell out in four continuous nights. It was after getting caught up to present day and my third pregnancy when I got my first horrible comment. It read something like “wow, that’s a great fiction novel you wrote”.

    I was floored. I could not believe somebody would think that I made up the crap that had happened to me up. I deleted the comment and was told by a really great blog friend to just forget about it. Just recently though I had another comment that placed judgment on my history and it’s authenticity. Again, I was floored that people would actually think I made up my history. I was always like – seriously?! Who does that?!?!?!?

    Then you read articles like this and you become aware of just how messed up people really can be. Blogging is one of those things that you have to go into with sort of a blind trust. If you start doubting blogs you’ll probably wind up not wanting to be a part of the community and that is such a shame when it comes to the AIL world. I’m so incredibly lucky to have found a super strong community of bloggers who are supportive who I’ve never met AND surprisingly such a strong bond with bloggers who I met online and then in real life too!!! I had a giggle this morning when I realized 5 of the 7 commenters on my recent blog last night were bloggers who I met online and then at a group meeting here in my own city!

    I think the most I take out of this article is that you have to be open to the possibility that what you are reading is 100% the truth and that if you are wrong…that’s the risk you take when you aren’t having a “real life” relationship.

    Great article and write up Jules 🙂

  4. I was definitely taken in by the fake ALi blogger last summer, and dammit, it HURT. I have always approached this community (and really anyone I’ve met through blogging) as being honest people who just need a place to WRITE IT ALL OUT. It had really never occurred to me that someone would make up a life…invent tragedy…plea for prayers… all out of some f*ed up need for attention (and yes, I realize it goes much deeper than that, but whoa, it sure hurt no matter what).

    I am incredibly thankful to have met so many wonderful women through blogging, and I am also thankful that I have been blessed to actually MEET 18 of you in real life. That’s only a small fraction of the women I’ve come to know and love through their writing, but it sure is saying something to then meet you IRL and STILL think you’re cool. 🙂 That’s not to say that my URL/IRL friendships haven’t changed and evolved over time – there are definitely women who I’ve met up with that I no longer communicate with. Maybe they’ve changed. Maybe I’ve changed. It’s sad, but it’s okay. Still, I’m so thankful to have made the strong friendships that I have – you ladies have saved me in some of my darkest times.

  5. After two IRL situations where people turned out to be Not Who I Thought They Were, with devastating consequences, I am now very guarded with who and what I will believe. It takes a LONG time to earn my trust IRL, and you get one chance to fuck it up. With bloggers, I read them for a *very* long time before I comment. Even longer before I begin to share pieces of myself. On my own blog, I have struggled very deeply with what and how to share and learned some painful lessons along the way. And yeah, it SUCKS that these few and far between incidents are the lens through which I see people, but fool me twice, you know? Mrrrrrp. (That being said, I tend to believe people are more honest on their blogs than IRL simply because of the anonymity, but YMMV).

    But MAN – that fake ALI blogger fucked me up good. Not because I was invested in her story, but because her “tragedy” gave me serious PTSD flashbacks to all the HORRIBLE things I imagined happening to my child during my bout with PPD. I couldn’t even walk him in his stroller for a time because I was so scared he would be hit by a car at an intersection. I couldn’t leave the house. It all came flooding back and I was distraught. To find out that it was fake just made me so ANGRY. It definitely made me much more wary of bloggers I don’t “know” and that’s a shame. But the women I do know? I’d lie down in traffic for.

  6. I’m seriously stunned. I am brand new to blogging, and I had NO IDEA this kind of thing was going on. So sad that anyone would make up pain for sympathy or attention in the first place- much less in a place where the initial idea is that women are sharing experiences and stories of real pain and exposing real vulnerabilities. Trust is epically key! I started my blog for obviously similar reasons to others in this community, and already I have gotten some pretty mean comments from MY OWN FAMILY. I vented about this in my post “Deal” last night. Here’s a link, for anyone who is interested:
    Wow. People suck.

  7. Wow. This article was so sad, and infuriating! I’ve been through a lot in my life, some of which I’ve ommitted from my blog because of the desire to not subject myself to trolls and other crazy people… I recall the ALI event of the summer and just get so angry.

    I have to remember that these people are sick. But dang, it’s horrible to watch people fake what we actually went through, and also for people to take attention away from people who are really sick with cancer (or whatever illness they are facing.)

    Reminds me of the book Traffic, where they studied the behaviors of people in cars. The internet is a worse version of your car.

%d bloggers like this: