I was introduced to Facebook last year by a friend, and I was hooked. Immediately my social network was expanded. I have been able to get my daily "social fix" while staying at home. Scott no longer gets bombarded with questions when he returns from work, a fact for which he is grateful. In a spare moment I can briefly chat with a friend, or catch up with an old college buddy. For an isolated social creature like myself, Facebook has become somewhat of a lifeline.
I was introduced to the darker side of Facebook almost immediately. In my zeal to connect with others, especially amputees, I joined numerous groups. I was bombarded with friend requests within minutes of my clicking the "Join this group" button. Naively, I accepted many of the requests.
I started receiving emails from devotees and wannabes from all over the world. For those of you who may not be familiar with the jargon, a devotee is an individual who possesses a sexual attraction to the amputee. The stereotypical devotee is attracted to the amputee woman preferably utilizing crutches and not wearing a prosthetic. A wannabe is the individual who believes that they were born with one limb too many. These individuals covet the amputee's limb loss, and many resort to self-mutilation in order to achieve their dream of living as an amputee.
It has taken weeks to weed through the friends list to eliminate the unsavory individuals. I look at every individual, and carefully review the groups to which they belong. If they are in a fetish oriented group, I remove them. If they are a male with only female friends, I remove them. Unless they have a personal experience with an amputation, I remove them. It has been a laborious process, but my list has finally been purged.
Because of my experience on Facebook, I have become hesitant about exploring other amputee oriented websites. I also realize that, in order to build my readership and to increase traffic to my forum, I needed to reach other amputees. A few weeks ago, I set up a secondary email and started googling.
There is a plethora of amputee related sites on the Internet. Unfortunately, upon researching the site owners, I discovered that many were run by individuals who are devotees. I become worried when I think of the scared, unsuspecting new amputee woman reaching out for support on one of these forums.
A quick search on several of these forums revealed a troubling trend. Many of these sites are exploiting the new amputee to obtain pictures of residual limbs and heartbreaking stories. A facade of support has been created in an attempt to solicit personal pictures which are probably distributed for sexual gratification.
Needless to say, I did not make any friends with the site owners. I posted threads warning members about the dangers of posting personal pictures. My threads were removed. I have been kicked off the forums.
I have never posted a picture of my uncovered stump. For me, the residual limb is personal. I have shown it on an individual basis for "educational" purposes, but never to satisfy the curiosity of a bystander. I assume that any picture of a residual limb posted on the Internet will eventually find its way onto the wall of a pervert. I don't want to be visual fodder for some three toothed, unemployed, smelly old man who probably lives in a corner of his grandmother's basement or attic!
I have come across a couple of websites that are valuable resources. You have to register for both, receiving approval to set up a profile and to fully utilize the source. Although there is no guarantee, I suspect that this extra step keeps away the casual devotee.
www.empoweringamputees.org and www.amputeenetwork.org are both growing sites. I have joined both and have not encountered any devotee issues. If you are looking to connect and share ideas or have questions answered, these resources may be helpful.
The sites are similar in design with both offering opportunities to join forums, groups, post status updates and write a blog. In many ways, consider these sites to be a "Facebook" for amputees. Personally, I like the empowering amputees site more, primarily because it is more established. I also appreciate that my blog post was displayed instantly and did not need to receive "approval" first.
Of course, I also recommend www.amputeemommy.com (yes, a shameless plug). This website has a small but loving forum. I can also guarantee that this web site owner is not a devotee and only has the most genuine of intentions.