Fatal Crosspost

Poseidon, Ruler of the Sea
Poseidon, Ruler of the Sea – Phoenix @ New Santorini, Erebor (rated: Moderate)

Dalbergia Research’s official accounts on social media announced “with great sorrow” the death of Paige Mirabeau. She was known as Mistress Paige Mirabeau in older times, when she was the most popular and influential BDSM and D/s (Dominance & Submission) blogger for the community of Dalbergia’s MetaMondo virtual world – or MM for short.

Her blog, Mirabeau’s World, had started out as a personal – and often very intimate – journal of her D/s relationships, her experiences within the fetish community, and as an advice column for those who wanted to make the most of their fetish-centred relationships. At some point, though, it morphed into something far more mainstream, focusing on MM destinations, art reviews, and developments related to MM and virtual worlds in general. This greatly boosted her popularity and influence. She soon became the go-to source for all sorts of information for every user of the platform.

The news of her passing spread like wildfire. Hundreds of MM residents rushed to her social media profiles to tell themselves and others – as she was no longer around to read these comments – how much she would be missed, how great she was to the community. Even some people she didn’t get along with. Naturally, MM’s entire Inner Sanctum paid their respects, waxing lyrical about her contributions and her kindness, using verbiage of all shades of purple and of all degrees of insincerity.

But what is this Inner Sanctum? At a first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking of them as as MM’s equivalent of your high school’s “cool kids”; the popular ones, the ones whose opinion determines one’s place in the school’s food chain. In MM, the Inner Sanctum is a colloquial term for a loosely-knit group of extremely popular, and well-connected with Dalbergia staff, early adopters, content creators, artists, and bloggers; there were rumours of varying veracity that they get preferential treatment by the company. What is true, however, is that, in the eyes of far too many people, they could do no wrong and that they could ostracise you if they decided they didn’t like you.

Not everyone was as devastated by Mirabeau’s death; there was someone who had distanced herself from the Inner Sanctum, and chose to say nothing. Not at the time of her death, not a few days later, not a month later. Two years after Paige died, however, she posted on her personal blog the following poem:

In Memoriam1

You died – and so, you too became:

A fountain of wisdom, a mentor, a paragon of virtue, the Lady of Lórien.

A dozen wreaths escorted you; five influencers’ speeches,

And thirty-six resolutions honouring your wonderful contributions.

Yet, only I knew what a scoundrel you truly were!

A counterfeit penny, a whole existence built on lies!

Rest in peace, o Lady; I shan’t come to disturb your serenity. After all,

When the time comes for me to redeem my life I’ve lived in silence,

It’ll fetch a price far higher than that your pathetic stiff’s.

Sleep in peace. As you were always in life:

A fountain of wisdom, a mentor, a paragon of virtue, the Lady of Lórien.

You shan’t be the first, you surely shan’t be the last.

That was all she wrote. Her somewhat cryptic post didn’t attract a lot of attention at first. After all, gone were the days when her blog gathered more than a hundred views per day. In the wake of her separation from Paige, she had effectively stopped writing for nearly four years, and the vast majority of her readers went away – ironically, mostly to Paige. Many of them never came back, even after Arianna resumed blogging.

Even so, only a handful of residents still remembered Paige’s post from seven years ago about how “humbled” she was when the owners of Lórien, a twenty-sim collection of highly photogenic in-world destinations, created her as Lady of Lórien, so the reference was lost on most. About three months later, Charles Moser, one of Lórien’s owners caught wind of Arianna’s post and visited her, demanding “explanations” and threatening to ban her from his sims.

“I have nothing to explain, Charlie,” said Arianna. “It’s none of your business anyway.”

“None of my business? You’re dragging Paige’s name through the mud and, by doing so, you’re also making me and Edward look like we’ve given some sort of noble title to a despicable person!”

“For one, what I write is none of your business. Deal with it. After all, I know you had said the same when your beloved Paige pulled that fatal crosspost on me.”

“What do you mean?” he said defensively.

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, Charlie,” said Arianna. Her head, fully covered by her shiny latex hood, was fixed in his direction. He knew that, if her eyes were visible, she’d be glaring at him. He was taken aback; he was hoping to come in, guns blazing, to take down that insolent, latex-covered scrapyard mongrel. “You were there when it happened,” she continued.

“W-When…?” he asked.

“Valentine’s Day, 2015. At Candy Midnight’s party,” she said calmly, but sternly. “In public chat. Do you remember what she said?”

“I honestly don’t remember,” he responded, looking away as he frantically typed his answer.

“Yes, you do, Charlie. Otherwise, finding the ‘right’ answer wouldn’t have taken you so long, and you wouldn’t have typed it so quickly after finally finding it. Would you like me to freshen up your memory a little? She said to her new plaything ‘oh, Arianna? She’s someone I’d once made the mistake of allowing her to think I’m her Mistress.’ Those were her exact words, Charlie. Ring a bell?”

“I think I remember. I don’t know what to say,” he said.

“That’s not my problem, Charlie,” she said, in a tone more ruthless than before. “That fatal crosspost, which I now, with the benefit of hindsight, have come to think was not accidental, was the final straw in a long series of emotional abuses on her behalf. Of course, to you and the rest of the Inner Sanctum she could do no wrong. After all, I’m just an outlier and she was one of your clique. One of the ‘cool kids’. I had to go through all of her shit alone, while you all heaped praise and adoration at my abuser’s feet. So, since what happened between me and Paige then was none of your business, it’s none of your business now, and so is how I handle it. As for your threats of banning me from your sims, go right ahead.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” she responded coldly. “First of all, your response wasn’t what a dignified person would give. If you had dignity, you’d simply say ‘I’m sorry.’ Instead, you asked me if I’m sure I don’t care if you ban me from your sims, which shows you only care about ‘punishing’ me for speaking out about what I’ve been through. That doesn’t make you a host I care for, Charlie.”

“Fine, then,” he said angrily. “If that’s what you wish.”

“I’m not finished, Charlie. Learn how to listen. Second, knowing your ties with Paige, I’d chosen not to visit your sims, much less write about them, since 2014. What makes you think I’ll reverse my decision now? And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do than have you here, throwing around your privilege and weight, and trying to pull rank on me.”

“What would make you happy, then?”

“By this, you mean ‘what would it take to convince you to take down your post’, I suppose?”

“Yes. What would it take?”

“Nothing. I want you to leave me alone. And I’m not taking down my post, period. As for that title you gave her, it was entirely unimportant; all you did was give her a silly honorific that further inflated her already bloated ego.”

“Then why did you refer to her by it?”

“Do you want the short answer or the long answer?”

“The short will be fine.”

“Because.”

“Is that the short answer?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes. Happy now? Anyway… I’ve got things to do, Charlie. If you’re upset that I referred to someone by a nickname you gave her, that’s not my problem, and there’s nothing you can do about it. At worst, you can ostracise me – oh wait. Paige had taken care of that after the fatal crosspost, to deflect blame from her. But that’ll work only with Inner Sanctum groupies.”

“Fine,” he said, clearly angered, and teleported out. Arianna never bothered to find out if he went through with his threat to ban her from his sims.

– – –

1 This poem was inspired by Greek poet Manolis Anagnostakis’ poem “Επιτύμβιον“.

The Zany Zen Railway station at Somdari
The Zany Zen Railway station at Somdari (Rated: Moderate).

I really wonder how and why I missed SL-based author Huckleberry Hax’s post “Fatal Crosspost: Coming soon to a conversation near you” – and I can’t help wondering why it’s not considered a seminal post in internet culture. The gist of it is that, while we’re online, we often find ourselves multitasking, doing things both on our internet-capable device and beyond it: we browse, shop online, talk on the phone, write a text for work, watch videos, and chat. In chatrooms and / or in one, two, three, or more private conversations. And this can lead to “accidents” – and not of the “happy” variety.

Huckleberry Hax
Huckleberry Hax, originator of the term “fatal crosspost”.

Now, computers have made significant strides from the single-tasking days of CP/M and MS-DOS, and we take their multi-tasking capabilities for granted. Still, sometimes they fail. The occasional application or browser tab acts up, and things can go wrong, slightly, annoyingly, or even catastrophically. As far as we humans are concerned as internet users and, more specifically, as chat participants, the fatal crosspost is a prime example of a catastrophic event, which happens inadvertently and whose consequences are permanent.

We’ve all experienced the occasional accidental crosspost, either because it’s happened to us or because we witnessed it: we’re talking with X in one chat window and with Y in another, or we’re talking in open chat (or a chatroom, if you will), and with X in a private message. And we type and send Y something we intended to send X, or vice versa; or we type and send in open chat something we intended to say to X, or vice versa. Most of the time, such crossposts are benign. You wanted to ask X what time is convenient for them to meet you, and you said it in open chat; you wanted to ask about the syntax of a certain command in a certain programming language, and you asked the wrong person or group. That’s fine – you just say “sorry, wrong window,” others accept it, smile and shrug it off, no harm done.

The fatal crosspost, though, is an entirely different beast. As Huck says, “[f]or a fatal crosspost to occur, the thing accidentally typed has to be monumentally one of the worst possible things you could say to that person in that moment. For example, a comment about person X meant for person Y. An uncomplimentary comment.”

Of course, the online realm isn’t the only space where the fatal crosspost occurs; we’ve all seen it happen in meatspace, and, no matter what American sitcoms tell us for narrative purposes, its consequences aren’t any less dire. Both in meatspace and online, there’s an event horizon that separates the time before the fatal crosspost and the time after it – and once you cross this event horizon, there’s no turning back. Ever. Apologise all you want, grovel all you want, it’s no use, and – even worse – there’s no excuse whatsoever that can pull you out of the mess you’ve created for yourself. No second chance. No forgiveness.

In his post, Huck gave an example of what can constitute a fatal crosspost. Another type of fatal crosspost could be this: you’re romantically involved with X, and it is understood by both of you that your relationship is based on mutual dedication and sexual loyalty / faithfulness. Then, you hit it off with Y, and explore paths that differ significantly from the ones you and X have been walking. And you send X an erotic message meant for Y. Naturally, it’s such a message that X could never believe that they were the intended recipient. This is – usually – a fatal crosspost, depending on the content of the message and the history of your relationship with X. If, for example, you’ve been neglecting and gaslighting X, making them feel more and more miserable, making them beg you for a small fraction of the attention, affection, and time you once gave them, then you’re fucked (not in a good way), and you had it coming.

If you wanted to make X hate you and break off all communication with you, I must offer you my most enthusiastic contrafibularities. You’ve given them every reason and right to become your mortal enemy, to think of you as a bucket full of bovine diarrhoea, and to speak in the most unfavourable manner imaginable about you, whenever they’re given a chance, and to anyone who’ll listen. Even if what you said to Y to instill bias against X in them includes a grain of truth or two, you’re still fucked – again, not in a good way. You see, the one who talked smack about someone else behind their back and got busted is you.

But why is the fatal crosspost such a huge deal? Such comments constitute a major breach of trust and confidence. It’s because the person you’re targeting in your fatal crosspost is usually a person you’re supposedly a friend of, a person who trusts and respects you – even loves you. And you chose to disrespect that friendship and those feelings. Regardless of what you were trying to achieve with your behaviour, the fact that you either spoke ill of them to someone else behind their back or betrayed your romantic liaison shows that the feelings of trust and respect were not mutual.

Now, let me take Huck’s example a bit further: imagine that you’re in a public setting in SL with X and Y, and surrounded by people who know all three of you – you, X, and Y. And imagine that you instead of sending the ugly remark about X to Y, you send it to public chat, where everyone present can read it. Obviously, X has every reason to loathe you forever. What about the others? Well, those who were at the scene and witnessed your fatal crosspost won’t have much of an incentive to continue respecting you (if they did in the first place), especially if X is their friend. And if you had invested much in presenting yourself as a paragon of ethics, as the best specimen of the anti-drama species, then you’ve just shattered your entire marketing campaign.

If you do that, you’d best eat humble pie and apologise publicly and profusely, without expecting that X will ever forgive you, and without believing for a nanosecond that X will be obliged to not speak ill of you. Maybe the other people who witnessed the scene will someday forgive you. Maybe. But who cares? You should have known better. But now that you’ve gone and put your foot in your mouth, can you avoid losing face in such a shameful manner? Hmmm, let me think…

Actually, there’s only one way for you to avoid the consequences of a public fatal crosspost: you must be such a venerated “celebrity” in your community, so “irreplaceable”, so well-connected to the “right” people, so adept at providing hours of exquisite rimming to the “right” rectums, so completely above and beyond critique and scrutiny, that, in others’ eyes, you can do no wrong whatsoever and everyone’s quick to forgive you for literally everything. In other words, you must be a true high-functioning sociopath with no scruples or principles, who’s mastered the art of manipulating others and has elevated it to a science. In other words, you must be a total Karma Houdini and a world-class sycophant.

Then again, you might think I must be a complete hypocrite; surely I’ve made at least one fatal crosspost. Right? The answer is no. I have said things that angered others, but I’ve always said them to their faces, and not behind their backs. There are reasons why I’ve managed to avoid making fatal crossposts. For starters, it’s my principle to include in my friends list only people I can respect. Second, I detest gossip. I choose to not frequent gossip cesspools like the ones I talked about a while ago, and keep a safe distance from those who do. Third, I know how to respect my friends’ friendships. If both A and B are my friends, I choose to not speak ill of A to B, or vice versa.

That said, I reserve the right to say whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, to whomever I choose, about someone who subjects me to a fatal crosspost or has done so in the past. Some may find it prudent to take this as fair warning.