Notes from a Computer Therapist, part 2
By the time she was 2 years old she had been sent over to support over 100 times. Home calls were up to 200 times and she had undergone over 20 surgeries including the removal of her memory modules, replacement of her motherboard and PSU-unit.
A Dell machine, a 3 year old boy had been supportalized more than 20 times due to booting failures, overheating and spontaneous crashes and hangs.
These are just a hand-picked few of the numerous cases of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), or Factitious Disorder by Proxy, as it's listed in the American Computer and Hardware Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision, also known as DSM-IV-TR).
This relatively uncommon condition involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary user or administrator. One of the most harmful forms of computerabuse, Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome was named after Baron von Münchhausen, an eighteenth-century German dignitary known for telling outlandish stories.
What Is Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome?
In MBPS, an individual - usually a Windows user - deliberately makes his or her computer (most often their own workstation) unstable or convinces others that the system is flawed. The user or owner misleads others into thinking that the computer has hardware problems by lying and reporting fictitious episodes. He or she may exaggerate, fabricate, or induce symptoms. As a result, technicians usually order tests, try different types of recovery, and may even supportalize the computer or perform surgery to determine the cause.Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied when he or she has the attention and sympathy of technicians, support personnel , and others who come into contact with him or her and the computer. Some experts believe that it isn't just the attention that's gained from the "illness" of the computer that drives this behavior, but there is satisfaction gained by the perpetrator in being able to deceive individuals that they consider to be more important and powerful than themselves.
Because the user or owner appears to be so caring and attentive, often no one suspects any wrongdoing. A perplexing aspect of the syndrome is the ability of the user or owner to fool and manipulate technicians. Frequently, the perpetrator is familiar with the computer technology profession and is very good at fooling the technicians. Even the most experienced technicians can miss the meaning of the inconsistencies in the computer's symptoms. It's not unusual for support personnel to overlook the possibility of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome because it goes against the belief that a user or owner would never deliberately misuse his or her computer.