There are two long, pink wounds that curve up redditor OceanSky’s chest and meet at a point about six inches above his navel. They are, according to OceanSkys, scars from surgery. He has stage IV kidney cancer and will be dead within a year.
OceanSky’s AMA (“ask me anything”) has sat at the top of the social news site for most of the day, collecting thousands of upvotes, comments, and, apparently, more than $11,000.
Redditors have offered to sleep with him, invited him to serve as a groomsman at a wedding, and to stay at their homes across the world. The event shows the speed with which Reddit can rally around a good cause, a speed that is both both inspiring and troubling.
Indeed, Reddit has fallen victim to its fair share of hoaxes. Last year, redditor lucidending similarly claimed to be a cancer victim, and it took a newspaper, of all things, to prove him a fraudster. Some on the social news site are already calling out OceanSkys as a scam.
But OceanSkys probably isn’t faking, and he’s probably not a fraud. It’s not exactly easy to fake scars, or cancer meds. The fund—to fly him around the world—was started by another Redditor, z3phyr13.
Still, $11,000 is a whole lot. It’s great that so many strangers want to help out a 23-year-old kid who’s dying of cancer. It’s the inspiring, heartening side of Reddit that many people love. But this is the Internet. Identity is malleable and always uncertain. The sad truth is that, once hard cash enters the equation online, people need to be careful.
Again: OceanSkys probably isn’t a fraud. But next time, redditors might want to be a little more cautious with their donations. Treat him like a king for a day, but wait until there’s slightly better proof (like, at the very least, a real name) before emptying your wallets.
In the mean time, we can’t wait to hear about OceanSkys’s around-the-world adventure.
Photo via OceanSkys