The ability to be deceived online is as equal as it is to be deceived offline, in my opinion, but the time frame that one is deceived is probably shorter IRL than online. When you see someone face-to-face, you can see how they react (or don’t react) to certain things. You can see their behaviors and determine if it’s normal or sketchy. Oftentimes, you can Google their names or their image and find out a lot about them.
On the contrary, we are most likely to lie and deceive online than we are offline. We put our best digital foot forward and create a collage of what we want the world to see. We draft images and messages to convey how we feel, or what we want people to think we feel. We censor ourselves and set up our own guidelines for the person we’re painting digitally. When we have given life to our Frankenstein-like digital double, what that double does is under our control. What the world sees online is often the one thing in we can control, at least for some people. That’s why we spend so much time pruning and perfecting it. Little lies and half-truths can easily slip out, because, if we’re talking to someone whom we’ve never met, what’s the harm? What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?
Ethically, I don’t believe online deception is any better or worse than offline deception.
Reading the tale described by Koerner, my mind went right to Brittani Louise Taylor, a YouTuber I watched when I was in elementary/middle school. She posted humorous skits, but after a while, I unsubscribed due to me becoming older and growing to enjoy different content.
Two years ago, I searched her up once more when I was feeling nostalgic and just wanted to know what she was up to and if she was still posting. I saw that she had met this guy online, who was handsome with an accent and seemingly charming. He wasn’t a YouTuber himself, but a doctor who enjoyed tennis in his free time. Then, I saw the video that they were engaged, and she was pregnant. Everything seemed fine in BLT’s life. Months later, I saw that her fiancé was no longer in the videos. Practically all of the videos that featured her fiancé were either deleted or private, his face blurred out. Things had “changed” she said but couldn’t give details due to legal issues. She promised that everything would be explained soon, though.
It was when Shane Dawson released the second part of his Conspiracy Theories series two months ago, that Taylor’s story was explained. Milos Mihajlovic, Taylor’s ex-fiance, deceived Taylor on multiple occasions, with him and his mother suspected to be involved in Serbian human trafficking. Mihajlovic met Taylor via Tinder. Taylor was instantly smitten with his impressive backstory, good looks and charm. He requested money from her on several occasions, in which she obliged. At one point, he even faked having cancer. Once he got her pregnant, he took much pride in it and his mother came over to live with them and see Taylor’s pregnancy through. When their son, Misha, was born, his mother took him out of Taylor’s arms and kept on saying “my baby.” Milos, was insistent on Taylor and Misha going back to Serbia with him. Taylor later noted that a healthy baby boy was worth a lot of money in Serbia.
She received sole custody of Misha and a restraining on Milos. She changed Misha’s name to Rex and authorities would be alerted if he was to ever be swindled out of the country. To Taylor’s dismay, another woman is already in Milos’s thrall and had a baby with him. Taylor fears for this new woman.
Taylor’s story is an instance where she was deceived both online and offline. She became hooked through online deception, but it was prolonged through online deception.
The case of Elrod may not have been as dangerous as Brittani’s, but that didn’t make it any less unethical. Luckily for both cases, they got out of it physically unharmed, but the fallout has changed their lives forever.