How One Man Faked His Own Internet Death

Death is scary. Suicide is scary. And when you're a valued member of a long-standing community who supports and helps one another, you don't fake awful stories about either to sadden and embarrass your friends. You don't ruin years of relationships to pull a stupid gag that demeans true tragedies. You don't create a fake account—pretending to be your wife—and post on Metafilter that you killed yourself.

Which is to say: You don't do exactly what Marc, aka holdkris99, did last week.

Marc faked his own suicide and tricked a whole community into feeling sorry for him. He's still alive in real life, but he killed himself online. For what?

"A Bad Experiment"

Metafilter, the pristine oasis in a world of smudgy, circle-jerking Internet forums, fell victim to a man who disregarded the six years he spent developing relationships, writing long posts, and dispensing advice and instead chose to run a "bad experiment or joke or whatever" that in his words, "carried too far." That's a juvenile and terribly selfish way to put it, to say the least.

The Metafilter community prides itself on supporting each other. What's strange is that Marc once used his handle, holdkriss99, to do just that. For six years, he helped people. People recognized him and the posts he wrote. He became an important part of the Metafilter fabric. He was what made Metafilter different from other forums. And when he faked his death, people were genuinely sad. They had lost other members before. It was a horrible feeling. The members were there for the people it really happened to, then, and they were there for Marc, now.

So what happened? How did Marc kill holdkriss99?

Suicide Is Painless

On May 16th, Marc's "wife" contacted the Metafilter mods, informing them that her husband had committed suicide the previous weekend. The mods set her up with an account to post her sob story, a 4,000 word tome which included tales of sexual abuse, meth addiction, prison, their wedding, death, murder, depression, and what he loved. It was intense. It made people cry. The Metafilter community took it as real. Much of it could still be real. But, knowing as we do know that Marc himself likely posed as his wife to post it, the contents are very likely fabricated.

The mods had their own questions about Marc's death too, saying:

We give folks the benefit of the doubt and assume all else being equal that things are on the level, because they almost always are, but we also double-check things, and look into stuff when users bring worries to us. And there were some quietly worrying things in this case—no easily-findable obituary notices, no aggregations of condolences on social media pages—but none of that's a smoking gun. When we found a direct reference from one of Marc's friends to having hung out with him at an event several days after his alleged suicide, that meant we had to ask.

The Metafilter moderators emailed back Marc's "wife" about how they spotted Marc in a picture on Facebook days after he supposedly "died." The jig was up.

Today, Marc's "wife" admitted to the joke, albeit unapologetically, saying only that it had gone too far. But by then it was too late. Once you announce something to the internet, it becomes very hard to unannounce.

Sad Tidings

Metafilter users gave spent the last week pouring out sympathies and sharing remembrances of Marc. These weren't crocodile tears, people were genuinely rocked about his "death", posting support comments like:

Oh, this is horrible. For some reason I had clicked on his username a few days ago and marveled at the amazing contributions he brought to this community.

My favorite holdkris99 story is this one, which is about your wedding.

He seemed like such an amazing person; if there is anything the Metafilter community can do to assist you during this time, please do not hesitate to ask. This is a terrible loss and I wish you peace.
posted by lalex at 9:42 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

and:

I am so sorry for your loss. Your husband was a vibrant and loved member of this site. His contributions helped make this community thrive and his answers in AskMe helped many different people with a huge variety of problems, ranging from how to cook something to the thorniest of human relationship issues.

We were lucky to have his presence here, and I would like to thank you for sharing this news, and the story of your own lives and love with us; I feel honoured and grateful you have chosen to do so.
posted by smoke at 9:50 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]

and:

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking time to write that beautiful post. My wife is going to wonder why I'm crying and she feels the same way about MetaFilter that you do.

Please know that there are literally thousands of people here who have you in their hearts.
posted by The World Famous at 10:26 PM on May 16 [56 favorites]

And thousands others came out in support. It wasn't a candlelight vigil, but it was as good as the Internet gets. Metafilter users were genuinely saddened and hurt by the news. Even on other networks, people talked about holdkris99's death. These people cared. And then it was fake.

Cheap Tricks

What does Marc's sick and twisted hoax tell us? To not care? To not trust anything we see online? To not believe in what people ever say, even if they've been trustworthy—helpful, even—before? To not have friends? Maybe. It's the internet, your e-reputation is thrown around when people e-respect you, but easily tossed out because there's no real-world value to it.

But by doing that, it means they—the hurtful pranksters, the cynical, the awful—win. They converted you into one of them. That's not what a community is about. You don't second-guess the people you trust in your life. You don't let an asshole's mistake dull your true friend's problem. You stick around. You offer a shoulder. It's your community. It's your friends. It matters to you, even though it never mattered to them. [, Metafilter, Thanks, Matt!]

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