Wow, anyone who complains about the S/N ratio here, oughta take a look at that forum. Can I enter a feature anti-request to scoop never to have those cheesy emoticons? Or the avatars that look like refugees from the Cartoon Network?
Coming back on topic, this isn't all that unique; I've heard of variations on this story before, the gender-bending, the manufactured relationships, "deaths" of online personae, etc. It's not all that surprising, either. It's trivial to make up an online character (every one of us has done it, at the very least when we clicked "Create account" here). You make decisions about how you'll represent yourself, which parts of yourself you're willing to reveal, which bits you'll fudge or ignore altogether, and so on. Few of us are completely, utterly honest and open online -- and IMO would be foolish to do so.
What may be more surprising is that, knowing this full well, we still react so strongly to people we "meet" online. We're stuck between knowing this is all fake, and knowing that there's also a real person behind every userid. We'd like to believe there's some similarity between the persona we know and its creator. We'd like to believe we are good judges of character (no pun intended). We often extend our online relationships beyond the forum we first meet in, to IRC, ICQ, email, phone, or snail mail interactions, and the more this happens, the more we think we know the "real" person. People fall in love online. Sometimes it works out in RL, sometimes it fails spectacularly, or fizzles quietly.
Though a person is more than just his accounts on various web boards, forums, massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, and so on, I think it's a perfectly natural reaction to be shocked, and perhaps slightly grieved, when someone who has established a persona for himself suddenly decides to kill it off. A lot of time and energy -- often emotional energy -- has been invested in that character. Do we find it sad that streetlawyer got fed up and quit? (Well, perhaps that's a bad example ...) As sick and twisted as this dennilfloss/nowheremom guy may be, it really is a sad story. He got himself too deep, and couldn't find a good way out. As one of the saner posters on that board advised him, "I think you got a little to [sic] wrapped up in this imaginary persona you created. I suggest you start thinking about taking a little bit more time away from the boards."
--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--