January 23, 2004

Time To Stop Playing Now?

by Andrew Stern · , 12:26 pm

Tim Wright, one of the developers of Online Caroline, poses a question that I think deserves a new discussion thread. With his permission, here’s his post:

Being partially responsible for this thread I thought I’d better chip in. When I talked about people stepping over the line I was thinking of behaviour such as:

a/A soldier in the British Army sending pictures of himself in full uniform, and then offering to kill Caroline’s boyfriend for her. Seriously.

b/A woman flaming Caroline about how sad and lame the site is and how only pathetic lonely old men would ever interact with it. Meanwhile on the same email account the woman’s husband is telling Caroline how unhappy he is in his marriage and how he’d like to run away but is too scared of his wife – who hits him regularly.

c/The man who tracks down *my* home address as a tech admin contact for one of the Caroline servers and comes peering through my letterbox at half-eight in the morning looking for Caroline.

d/The schoolboy who writes to Caroline to say ‘stay away from my Dad he has my mum and does not need you’.

e/The man who phones my office seriously worried that because he had complained to our (fictional) chief exec about our treatment of Caroline that we were about to send the boys round to turn over his place.

I could go on. I have tens of thousands of mails. Thousands of pictures and phone messages. These people are not acting. Well, I guess some are.

The key question is: how responsible should I feel as the author for these people and their responses. And how should I respond to these situations? Should I write back as Caroline and try and create a soft landing for everyone within the realms of the fiction. Or should I just come clean and say ‘this is a fiction, Caroline is not real, it’s time to stop playing now…’?