I was 15 when I met Richard in a teen chatroom; he told me he was 17 and lived in Australia, in the same state as me – an amazing coincidence in a chatroom full of Americans.
Our discussions began as casual conversations in the chatroom, before moving to private chat, ICQ then MSN messenger.
Casey Donovan speaks out about being catfished. Post continues after video.
Richard could discuss movies, philosophy or his weekend parties with friends; no matter the topic, he had experience, opinions and prose to match. No subject was too deep or too trivial to discuss.
I’d finally found a guy who I thought was smarter than the immature boys at school. I’d come home each day and tell him about school, parties, classroom relationships and fights.
I was sure Richard wasn’t a bad person or scammer; he had none of the tell-tale signs everyone associates with online scammers. He never asked for money but offered me financial help more than once, which I refused. He’d never pushed to meet me, so he couldn’t be a predator or kidnapper. The longer we talked, the surer I was that no one who wasted so many hours on such everyday conversations could possibly have bad intentions.
Richard would talk to my female friends from school through instant messenger. He was funny, easy to talk to and he was always happy to give boy advice, something that made him appealing to my friend circle, with our limited knowledge of relationships.
Although Richard lived in the same state, he was still nearly a thousand of kilometres away, an impossible distance as a teenager limited by school, money, transport and parents. The same excuses made sense coming from him, too.
“My parents have divorced, so I’m moving to Cairns with my father,” he told me “He’s not coping, and although I want to visit you, I have to think about my family.” I could sympathise; my parents had divorced a few years earlier and we’d moved to a new house after the settlement.
After more than six months of talking online, Richard sent me an audio recording, saying hello to me. He was embarrassed about his voice, he said. Again, I could relate, as my own voice was husky, due to a childhood accident. We began talking by phone and I grew to look forward to hour long phone calls with Richard’s Scottish accent and ageless voice speaking through the distance.
We began talking by phone as often as three times a week, sometimes for as long as six hours at a time.