When I joined Whyville in 2003 on my first account Phoenix20, I was only 11 years-old. Being younger than 13 meant that I needed to have my parents sign a permission slip allowing me to chat. However, after profusely begging my parents, they refused. My mother said that Whyville must be an inappropriate website for children if it requires parental allowance. My father told me to make better use of my time elsewhere. At the time, several students from my school were members of Whyville. To fit in, I also wanted to join Whyville. So I asked my fellow 11 year-old peers if their parents had allowed them.
"Hah" they said, "We lied about our age. We said we were over 13."
After school that day, I immediately went on the computer and created my first fibbed account: Holiday30. I lied and registered that I was 15 years-old. Nonetheless being the innocent child that I was, I was very frightened of my crime. I thought, what if a City Worker catches me? Through the entirety of my time on Holiday30, I lied to my friends. When they asked me my ASL, I replied with "15/F/CANADA." I told everyone that I was 15.
Alas, there were several problems. First of all, my Whyville friends were 11 years-old. But if I told them the truth about my age, what if a City Worker punished me? I couldn't risk that. Secondly only later did I realize the mistake of revealing my birthday. The following year in 2004, my friends congratulated me on turning sixteen. They held a large sweet sixteen party at the Greek Theater in my honor. As I was dancing bop with them, an unknown Whyvillian gave me birthday wishes. Then she asked "YOU'RE SIXTEEN?!" to which I shyly replied, ". . . uhm, yes." "Wow, YOU'RE OLD" she said. I could feel her glaring at me though her monitor.
Her reaction was common. Most Whyvillians that met me were shocked by my age. I wanted to be a member of Whyville for a long time. But I didn't want to be known as the creepy Whyvillian who was older than everybody else. No, I certainly did not want to be the odd one out -- especially since I was as equal as everyone else. I realized that to fit in, I had to make new friends because they would know nothing about me. In order to make new friends, I created my current account: holiday50. I was 12 years-old and still too young to chat.
Moreover, I was still fearful of getting caught by the website staff. Sometimes I considered that if I was caught, I could reveal my true intentions and the City Workers would forgive me. But that thought didn't last long because I didn't have the best record on Whyville. Previously, I was banned on a side account for swearing. The message on that account read "We have the right to contact your Internet Service Provider." If they contacted the company that supplied my Internet, the company might contact my parents who would disapprove of my crime. I didn't want to get banned again for lying to site staff! So when I was asked of my ASL, I said that I didn't feel comfortable revealing my information.
Soon I befriended a Whyvillian named Megan, who became my best friend. When I asked her for her ASL, she told me that she was 15 years-old. Megan then asked me mine. In turn, I too said that I was 15. I thought that if anyone called me "the oddball" or "the freaky older Whyvillian," at least I wouldn't be alone. I would have Megan. In those days, I hung out at the Trading Post. I found a new group of friends who knew that I was 15 years-old. For a few months, I was at peace.
One day my virtual world came crashing down when Megan quit Whyville. I was alone after that. I also quit Whyville for a few months. I returned in 2005 but instead of making friends, I focused solely on building my account. I spent weeks on raising my salary and earning clams. I also discovered that some of my old face parts hadn't expired and were now considered "rare." I sold them to face part collectors who paid me handsomely. After I fulfilled my goal of having my ultimate salary, I realized something. My account was finally eligible to become a Y-mail Helper, to accomplish a "pathetic" dream I've had since I was a Newbie. I passed the test and immediately went to the Newbie Center to help others.
As a YHelper, I met a few new friends: Kate, Morgan and Amy. Upon talking to them, I was asked my ASL -- question that I knew all too well. Memories of my early days came flooding back. In real life I was 13 years-old, signifying that I still required my parents' authorization to chat. I quivered as I told them that I was 15 years-old and I laughed silently to myself as they easily believed me. I was still friends with Kate, Morgan and Amy in 2006 when I supposedly turned 16 on Whyville. In reality, I was now 14 years old and finally able to chat without the aid of my parents. I had been waiting for this privilege for so long. Yet now, it felt somewhat undeserved. For three years, I lied about identity. I had gone through so much and for what? To be able to chat on a virtual website? Was my wait really worth it? No, it wasn't.
At times I could get caught up in my lies. I told tall tales to my friends who were impressed by me. I was dubbed "cool" very early on, maybe too early. Being "older" than everyone else gave me a certain mystique. People were intimidated by me but they looked up to me. I became a silent role model. It was fun pretending to be someone I wasn't. "Virtual acting," I called it. It's hard to explain because I never actually realized that I was doing something wrong. I don't really know what caused me to lie or why I never told the truth, nonetheless I have a few reasons.
First, my intentions started off as being good. However, I think that lying gave me a certain confidence that my angelic 11 year-old self needed. I had asked others if one could get punished for lying about their age. Everyone I came across said no. When I was young, I was afraid of getting in trouble. In that sense, lying made me stronger inside.
Second, in real life I was a cherubic child. I always did as I was told. Rarely did I ever doubt the authority of an adult. I was so controlled and expected to be perfect that I had to let go and rebel somehow. Thirdly, I never fully grasped the concept of truth and lies. At a young age I learned that people should always tell the truth. But I'm the kind of person that questions what I learn. When is it okay for one to lie? I pondered this question in my head.
I've come across many posers and I've even exposed them for who they were. I've also taunted them for not telling the truth whereas I was a hypocrite and an even bigger poser. I guess that's because I never fell flat on my face. When I encountered a problem, I didn't solve it -- I just ran away from it. As I kept avoiding my problems, I lost touch of reality. The fact that I said I was afraid of being punished by City Workers is an excuse. Lying on Whyville is easy while I wouldn't have the courage in real life. That's because online, no one knows who you really are. The only person that knows you is yourself. On the Internet, I know that I'm a liar. I'm a fake. I'm a bad friend.
On July 18, 2008 I turned 16 years-old. On Whyville, I also turned 16. How could this be, you ask? Kate and Amy temporarily quit Whyville. I figured that since my old friends rarely logged on, I should make new friends and tell them my real age. Proudly for the first time I told them that I was 14 years-old. Though Morgan didn't quit, I decided to distance myself from her. However, this became a problem since my new friends were well acquainted with Morgan. I still avoided her because I thought that she would expose me as the liar that I was. I wanted to tell Morgan the truth . . . but something stopped me. I guess that I had worked for so long to build a lie, that I didn't want to tear it down.
A lot of my friends are oblivious as to how old I am. I guess that's because I don't like telling them. For me, age on the Internet just creates a web of lies. But then again, that's all people on the Internet are -- a web of lies. Somewhere along the road, Morgan figured out that I lied about my age. I don't know whether she was angry or disappointed because she never confronted me. But I do know this: on July 18, 2008 she congratulated me on turning 16.
In the Newbie Center when someone complains that their parents won't sign their Parental Permission Slip, I just tell them to lie about their age.
Author's Note: I'm not going to mention the usernames of any of my friends. But the names I used are their real first names, unless they ironically lied to me.