Jennifer Mendelsohn recently reported a piece for Medium about @TrappedAtMyDesk, a presumed online cancer hoax which received a great deal of attention at Buzzfeed, Jezebel, and other viral-hypey websites as a real story–but no attention as an almost-certain hoax, once that became more clear.
"A video recently went viral claiming to be based on the tweets of a woman dying of a brain tumor," Jennifer tells Boing Boing. "My reporting shows there is almost no possibility it's real."
My own opinion as someone who has cancer, and has loved and lost friends online with the disease: yeah this is a hoax. There is absolutely no way it's real. The medical details don't add up, and my spidey sense says fake fake fake. Whoever's behind it is gross and/or seriously disturbed to exploit cancer for attention. The sites that reported it as a maudlin, linkbaity tearjerker story should be ashamed of themselves, too. There are plenty of real people with real cancer stories. No need to invent fake ones.
@TrappedAtMyDesk's tweeted life begins unremarkably enough on November 14, 2009, with updates about how to meet fellow Goths in a new city and wry, Dilbert-like observations on the monotony of bureaucratic office existence. ("Is it wrong to want a cattleprod to use on people in the elevator who are too busy to move when I say 'excuse me?'") But then the narrative takes a dark turn. In January of 2013, Amanda is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given three months to live. We watch as she reevaluates her priorities. She quits her job, and spends two carefree months traveling in Central America, drinking "cheap booze." She resolves to reach out to her estranged mother and gains a wrenching sense of clarity: "Don't spend time being angry at people. Forgive them. Life is entirely too short." And then, almost three months to the day after her diagnosis, Amanda's brother James tweets that she has passed away.
Amanda's story has clearly touched a nerve. After finding its way to Jezebel, where it was dubbed "Your Evening Cry: A Life Told Through Twitter," the video took off. Buzzfeed packaged it as "The Incredible Story Of A Woman's Final Months Fighting Brain Cancer As Told Through Her Tweets." It made the front page of Reddit. The original YouTube video has, at last count, 937,928 views, and the multiple ripoffs—including the version subtitled in Spanish—have tens of thousands more. People are tweeting about @TrappedAtMyDesk from Venezuela, Kuwait, the Philippines, Turkey, and Indonesia; newspapers in Ireland, England, and Australia have written about Amanda. The video has made grown men sob and rendered people speechless; it's inspired at least two songs. Commenters have called the video "poignant," "heartbreaking," "humbling," and "one of the most important things I'll watch this year." "That video changed the way I think about life," reads a typical response.
Read: "Amanda, @TrappedAtMyDesk on Twitter, Dies, Age Unknown" [medium.com]
It was amazing. Beaches, cages, ruins, forest, huge turtles, cheap booze, dancing, learning Spanish, meeting people… @spydergrrl
— Amanda (@TrappedAtMyDesk) March 25, 2013
Tomorrow, I go back into the hospital for the last time. Thank you all for the good vibes. Be good to each other. #quietlastnight
— Amanda (@TrappedAtMyDesk) April 10, 2013
My dear little sister Amanda passed away from brain cancer late last night. -James
— Amanda (@TrappedAtMyDesk) April 15, 2013
@Xeni It's a literal impossibility for "Amanda" to have been diagnosed with GBM IV w/o surgery. Living that nightmare w/my mom right now.
— ginalou (@ginalou) February 18, 2014