The story of 90DayJane, like the Britney period shots, is supposed to illustrate the seedy, soulless depths of the aughts' virtual culture. For those not familiar with it, on February 5, "90dayjane," a twenty-something pretty brunette resident of Los Angeles, put up a website on which she claimed she would off herself in 90 days. "This blog is not a cry for help," said Jane. "I'm not depressed and nothing extremely horrible has lead me to this decision. But, does it really have to?" Her site, naturally, became a sensation. Hundreds of thousands read it, and their comments, like those found within any other unregulated corner of the internet, were mostly appalling. "Post nudes first," one commenter advised. Then last week, the person behind 90 Day Jane killed the site — not herself — and told the world that the website had been a hoax — a "personal art piece" and that "It was meant for me and (what I ignorantly thought would be) a small number of people."
The site, of course, is no longer available, but, in an email to Los Angeles Times writer David Sarno, the elusive Jane, who is choosing to remain anonymous, explains her project thusly: " I attempted to create something as an artist, public perception changed that creation and so I killed it before it got out of hand. In my opinion it became much more interesting as a social experiment, but I couldn't fool myself into justifying it in that way; I'm not a sociologist."
And she shouldn't have been able to justify it, because the fact is that, art project or not, creating that site was a pretty shitty thing to do. As Sarno points out, "There is a kind of Internet suicide culture. Not of kids pretending they're going to kill themselves but for sometimes extremely depressed people who have nowhere else to go to get support. Not to mention meeting places for bereaved friends and families of suicides." Or maybe Jane should have asked Megan Meier's parents how they felt about it. Or possibly the many teens who committed suicide using the social network bebo.
Ultimately, the site was just a manipulative game that spun out of control. "People don't get to choose how the public perceives them and they can spend a lot of time and money trying to change that perception," Jane wrote to Sarno. "By keeping my identity away from 90DayJane, I get to skip all of that." And this is why the 90DayJane stunt is an allegory for internet culture as a whole: the most vile shades of human nature are in evidence on the internet because they're allowed to remain anonymous.