Do one thing every day that scares you.
Sing.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts.
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
–Mary Schmich, “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”

I want to prove I really exist, and I’m trying to figure out how I can do it. What are the tell-tale signs of a hoax? Lack of pictures and a claim of hating to have your picture taken. Well, I hate having my picture taken. Gatermann’s got an album full of pictures of me holding my hands in front of my face. He collects ’em or something. I know of four pictures of me floating around on the Web, total, and two of them were scans off newsprint.

Another sign: Lots of people claiming to have talked to me via e-mail or even over the phone, but not in person. Dan Bowman and I have talked a lot, and I consider him a close friend. Other Daynoters or Webloggers? Tom Syroid and I used to talk on the phone. But that’s it. I’ve had conversations over e-mail with Doc Jim, and with JHR, and with Matt Beland, and with Brian Bilbrey. But who’s seen me in person? Well, Steve DeLassus and Tom Gatermann, both of whom I claim to have known for more than 10 years, but I could have fabricated them too.

Debilitating problem? Well, carpal tunnel syndrome is very small potatoes compared to leukemia, but it is a death sentence for a writer. I disappeared for about six months over it.

Really, it’s pretty hard to prove I’m not a hoax. I can link to my old writings from college that are online, circa 1996, (I published under “Dave Farquhar” in those days) and of course there’s that O’Reilly book and those Computer Shopper UK articles. Those will establish a consistency of writing style. My relatives that I mention don’t Weblog, and their writing styles are pretty distinct from mine–both my mom and sister are pretty good writers but I’ve got a lot of quirks they don’t. And neither have made many appearances on these pages.

I’m going to hold back a lot of personal details, because someone I hadn’t spoken to in about 10 months freaked me out back in January and, after reading my weblogs in their entirety, recited to me virtually every detail of my life based on what I’d written and a few educated guesses. Some of the details were wrong, but not enough of them were.

But if anyone really wants to check, I was born in Kansas City, Mo. I lived a lot of places, but most notably in Farmington, Mo., from 1983 to 1988, and in Fenton, Mo., from 1988 to 1993 (and I continued to call Fenton my home through 1996 when I was in college). I graduated from Lutheran High School South, St. Louis, in 1993. I graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia, with a degree in journalism (no minor) in 1997. I was employed by the University of Missouri in 1997 and 1998, so I’m even listed in the 1998 issue of the Official Manual of the State of Missouri. All of this should be pretty easily verifiable.

Or you can just take me at my word. It comes down to honesty, and futility. Why would anyone hoax a 20-something systems administrator? And why would they publish a book and a bunch of magazine articles under my name? It would be pointless. A pile of computer tips isn’t a compelling enough story to fake.

So what is compelling? A struggle. This past weekend’s struggle with a system upgrade showed I was human and don’t really care if people think I’m a computer genius or not. I guess that’s kind of compelling, because most of us can’t get our computers working quite right. Netscape cofounder Marc Andreesen endeared himself to thousands when he admitted in a magazine interview that his home PC crashes a lot and he never did get his printer working right. But an underdog is better. Noah Grey is a whole lot more compelling than me, because we’ve all felt a little shy sometimes, so his agoraphobia is something we can somewhat relate to. He can reach out to the world and we can share a little in his struggle and root for him. And Kaycee Nicole Swenson, well, she was just too good to be true–a 19-year-old who was wise and mature well beyond her years, a great writer, insightful, broken-hearted, sincere… Every male over 35 wanted her to be his daughter. As for the males under 35, she’d have made a great kid sister. But I suspect a good percentage of them would have wanted to date her, or someone just like her.

I don’t remember if this was exactly how she put it, but an old classmate once observed that the Internet allows us to safely pick our friends from a pool of millions, and usually we can find people who at least seem to be a whole lot more interesting (or better matches for us) than the people we can meet face-to-face, and we can quickly and painlessly get new ones and dispose of them on a whim. She wrote those words in 1997, but aren’t they a perfect description of Kaycee and the rest of the Weblogging phenomenon?

Steve DeLassus raised an interesting point this afternoon. He asked why a 19-year-old dying of leukemia or complications from leukemia would weblog at all. Wouldn’t she have better things to do? That’s an honest question, but I know if something like that were happening to me, I’d weblog. It’s cathartic, for one thing. When I was struggling with depression, I wrote about it in my newspaper column. I found it a whole lot easier to just pour my heart and soul into my word processor than to talk to someone about what I was feeling. I needed to get it out of my system, but you never know how people are going to react. When you can detach yourself from the words, it doesn’t matter. Some will scoff, but you won’t know. Some will totally understand, and you won’t know. Others will totally get it, and they’ll reach out to you, and then it’s all totally worth it. You know there’s something to them, because they had to make an effort to find your words, probably, and then they had to make an effort to communicate with you. You find special people that way.

Yeah, it’s kinda selfish. But it’s safe, and when you’re vulnerable, you need safe.

I’ve given zero enlightenment into the whole Kaycee Nicole hoax. I know a lot of people are hurting. I never got attached to her, because I only read her a couple of times a month. Over the weekend, I went back to Week 1 and started reading from there, to see what I missed. I guess I figured catching the reruns was better than missing it entirely. And I started to understand her appeal a bit more. And now I understand the hurt. It’s not nice to play with people’s hearts.

And some people will probably put up their walls and vow never to be hurt that way again. It’d be hard not to blame them.

But I hope they don’t. Because the only thing worse than the feeling after someone played with your heart is the feeling of being alone.

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