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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Additional Thoughts on Emotional Fraud anyone else really thrown off by the font change on Blogger? Am I the only one who is seeing this? Did I hit a wrong button?

Back to why I originally opened the post box...

If you haven't read the first post on emotional fraud, do so before reading this one.

I think what is most interesting about this is the currency being requested--not money (the Wired article specifically pointed out that money is rarely a factor or requested), but attention. Sympathy. Comments. All things we give out for free anyway without a second thought. Perhaps that is why it is so remarkable.

Meaning, no one wants their time wasted or their feelings jerked around, but that is part of opening your heart. We leave comments and read stories on a daily basis and how many of us give any thought or weigh the truthfulness of the words before we leave the comment and move on to the next blog? I know I don't. I trust what I read is real and I leave my comment.

The reality is that anyone could have the sympathy and attention they crave--perhaps not in the quantity they crave--if they proactively support others. I had someone write me recently and complain about their low readership. They wanted me to post about their blog in LFCA and I said, certainly. I'm always happy to give people a boost. But I explained that a boost was just that, a leg up but the true work still had to be done by the writer. People may click over once, but if the person didn't give back to the community by reading and commenting, they wouldn't sustain the readership. This is also why the "new blog" section of the LFCA only contains blogs that have been started in the last month or two. Any blog older than that should have built a basic readership simply by providing good content and commenting on other blogs. My personal belief is that every story is a compelling story--it doesn't need drama or constant developments.

The writer explained that she didn't have time to read and comment on blogs; she only had time to write her own. And that's just not a sustainable model. Or, it is if comments don't matter and your only interest is in recording your story. But there are no shortcuts to building a sustained readership.

Except through emotional fraud.

That was what I thought when I read Niobe's post. Create enough drama or ill-feelings or make people emotionally-invested and you can bypass the difficulty of building readership. Instead of focusing on others and building readership through outreach, you focus entirely inward, using all the energy on the fake story. Isn't it sad when you think about it that way? That if the same person used the hour to read and comment on blogs, they would have the same readership (and an honest one) as someone who made-up a story and spent their entire time only counting their comments.

Which brings us back to Limeybean and her (his?) question: if you got something out of it too; catharsis, greater understanding of your own life--was it all bad if it turned out to be fake? I think we'd all rather leave a comment on a blog where we're reading the truth and invest in a story where we're reading the truth, but here's a what if for you:

What if a blogger came on the scene and her story was so amazing that it got picked up by the mainstream media. That Oprah covered her IVF plight and it brought awareness about infertility to the general population. That people started donating to Resolve because they were so moved by her story and it enabled Resolve to help fight a few bills and get IVF coverage for all. And then, it turned out her story was a complete fake, written by a fertile woman with four kids who started the blog because she saw how wonderful the ALI community could be and just wanted to be a part of it. And the whole thing just spiraled out of control when she got the first tastes of attention.

By the way--this is obviously not a real scenario (infertile people on Oprah! donations to Resolve! true understanding in the general population!)--but I'm asking the what if in regards to Limeybean's question. If good came out of it, would all be forgiven or would you have wished that you hadn't supported Resolve due to her hoax? And barring quantitative good coming out of it, is having catharsis or understanding enough? Can it ever be forgiven if all you get is a good cry and renewed gratitude for your own life?

I have never knowingly been hoodwinked, though there have been some times that I've read a person's story and felt like it didn't all check out. I keep myself open-minded by saying that every person deals with things differently and while it may not be my instinct to do X, it does not mean that the person is a complete fraud.

I do tend to trust everything and everyone until proven otherwise, but perhaps it helps to know that I have also posted news on LFCA for the person who mocked my kumbayaness and I kept their blog on the blogroll. Why? Because things like the blogroll and LFCA I see as separate from me and liking me or my blog should not be contingent on being in those spaces. I mean, she certainly has other friends and readers in the community and she is part of our community. It isn't my place to kick anyone out by not including them, therefore, I will always include them.

Which means that I post news or have blogs on my blogroll from people who openly dislike me or my writing, and it also means that I have probably posted news or have blogs on my blogroll from people who are taking me for a ride--either mindfully by creating an entirely fake story or inadvertantly by exagerating a few details. All I can do is trust and trust and trust some more--even if people take advantage of that trust. There is too much good that comes out of having that level of trust to end up having the honest members of the population miss out by things becoming more guarded.

Which is a long way to say that I hope people do not become more guarded. I think it would be a shame if a minority of people broke down community for the vast majority.


Jen said...

I am always completely taken in by everything. Matt tells me I cannot even suspect someone of lying (unless it is really obvious, of course) because my mind just doesn't think like that.

Bluebird said...

I agree. We all need to be guarded, sure - just like in real life (although it's admittedly harder to see if things "check out" on the internet). . . and I really hope I never get super-duped. . . But really - what's the worst thing that happens? It will be crushing, don't get me wrong. But in the grand scheme of things, I feel like I gain much more for trusting and investing myself in others, and allowing them to do the same in me, and risking that I might be duped - than I would gain if I just sat on the sidelines.

We had some really awesome people who stepped up and did some really awesome things for us when our babies were born/died. It brings me to tears to think of where we'd be without them - virtual strangers. The most obvious thing is our trees - strangers collected money, contacted the city, organized the entire thing - and these trees bring us more peace than anything we could possibly imagine. I am so, so glad that these people trusted me and took a risk. Their thoughtfulness and generosity brought be to my knees, and went a long way in bringing me through a difficult time.

FattyPants said...

Color me naive because up until I read Niobe's post the thought didn't even really cross my mind. As I read through the links it made me angry and I wasn't even someone who was roped in at the time. For me its a big feeling of 'how dare they'. How dare they take someone elses pain and make a mockery of it. Plus I wouldn't even want to touch the bad karma that would come along with faking a childs death or a serious illness. Still after reading on this I admit I will probably still be more likely to believe what they are writing about unless there is something obvious that catches my eye.

As for what if something good came out of it. Well even in that scenario it would go bad. If people donated to resolve and then found out that person was a fraud they would be less likely to donate or support again. Or at least thats probably how I would feel.

Jendeis said...

I liken the Oprah example to what happened with James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, which, I'm sure, is were you are going with this. Looking back, it seems that people just remember that it was a good book and secondly that the guy made Oprah cry.

Maybe all we can ask for is to get that attention for that small amount of time. All the notoriety might be worth the emotional damage later if we got universal infertility coverage.

Tash said...

Interesting re: comments: Perhaps I'm odd this way, but I always like reading what other people write and letting them know what exactly it made me think. Because sometimes it opens up something I'd never thought of myself (and the writing does not need to be pulitzer quality or overly dramatic to do this; sometimes others are just better at pointing out the forest). Of course I give my sympathy and empathy when it's needed, but frankly the comments I enjoy reading the most on my blog are how people read and think about what it is I write. Which is how I read.

Which is a long way of saying, I guess I'm not really in it for the "I'm sorry's," and nor do I leave a ton of those around (at least, by itself, repeatedly).

So I guess, perhaps, the bullshit-dar is somewhat built in; if the post is just dramadramadrama (and frankly, I haven't read a blog like that since being around here), I'm not going to have much to say anyway.

So who cares? You know, more than two years ago, I probably wouldn't. But because now I feel like I'm in a weird relationship of sorts with strangers in the computer, it would probably bother me greatly -- even if the fake story went on to produce an outpouring of support for research in stillbirth or prenatal genetic disorders. For the same reason I don't watch "house" anymore -- once you've seen it happen for real? With your child? I have little patience for similar drama cooked up by the imagination.

Busted said...

I do think we need to be guarded, but I think that, barring definite proof or extreme circumstances, the only thing to do when in doubt is to just not expend your energy or sympathy and leave it at that, especially having seen the guardedness and questioning go too far the other way on boards.

A while back a woman posted about her son born just after 24 weeks and rather than support multiple threads ensued with people saying there was no way she was telling the truth, picking apart her birth story, her reports of his progress, et cetera. It was brutal, and all I could think was, even if it is 95% likely she did make it up (and in my opinion, it was FAR more likely it was true - many of the questions raised were raised by those with really no knowledge or experience of how quickly and unexpectedly super preemie labors and births can happen), I didn't think it was worth hurting this woman if her story was true. I'd rather waste my support and emotion than risk causing more pain to someone in such a vulnerable place already. I've also seen a story that was proven false, of a woman who came on the boards and posted all over about her daughter that died, and it was fake. I was livid, I was hurt, I was appalled that someone could pretend to have this happen for the sympathy when, being one who has received FAR more sympathy and kindness than I deserve, I would happily sink into oblivion and have NO ONE read my blog or care if I could have my Doodles back. But I still could never have been the one to question it because I couldn't risk hurting someone, just on the off chance.

Elizabeth said...

I think the sense of betrayal that would ensue after the revelation of the hoax would undo any good that had come about previously.

Lori said...

I once read that practically any sin can be boiled down to stealing. Taking someone's property, spouse, life, livelihood, etc.

The hidden sin here is taking away readers of legitimate blogs. If drama (posed as non-fiction) pulls readers into one place and away from thousands of others (after all, our time is finite), that's a little bit of stealing.

Kymberli said...

To answer your question simply, Mel, I think I feel both ways about it and one end does not have to be exclusive of the other; if a nutter came and crocked up a huge falsehood that resulted in positive, widespread effects, I would feel grateful for those waves of change but no less angry and disgusted by the person at the root of it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...I tend to agree with Lori here, that a person who is milking sympathy for their own greed is stealing from those of us legitimately wanting to support each other.

As far as 'good' coming out of a big IVF hoax...that brings to mind a certain, Nadya Suleman, who (although didn't 'fake' her IVF and multiples) has been less than reputable with the circumstances surrounding her desires for a brood of children and where the money came from to support her IVF habit. Did infertility get a lot of press? I would argue that it did not.

Sadly, Nadya Suleman (Octomom) got the press, and I believe it HURT real IFers reputation. Furthermore, if one more of my friends gives me the 'just don't become an Octomom' warning...I'm going to go postal!

Somewhat Ordinary said...

infertilityrocks beat me to it! I was going to mention Nadya Suleman. Her story is "real" (although I still doubt we have the whole story) and that didn't do great things for infertiles.

I've never experienced this kind of emotional fraud, but I don't put anything past anyone. I still don't think if good came out of the story it excuses the means.

Larisa said...

I typically believe what I read. There have been a couple of situations where things didn't seem like they added up, but I don't think the whole thing was concocted. And I've never even thought about the possibility of exaggeration, either.

It's really sad that someone took advantage that way, and I feel most for the women that were providing support and were emotionally invested.

I would be mad if the infertile you hypothesized existed. In so many ways. There are so many of us that are real - that don't even want that kind of attention. It would feel really unfair and the backlash from the general public would be cruel.

nonlineargirl said...

Ugh, so grossed out by the idea that someone would think that trading on heartbreak is a good way to build readership. As if something is owed to the blogger and if they have to get it by fraud then that is just how it is. Bleh bleh bleh.

M said...

I don't feel like I've run across a 'faker' here, but then again I just might not know! But with the medical knowledge we all have and the emotional baggage, I think it would be hard to fake that. I would certainly be horrified if it turned out to be the case! And no, I don't think that the end justifies the means...

In regard to the comments, I totally agree with Tash. Also, I think that our blogs/comments are forming friendships. And friendships don't last if they are one-sided. I mean, if your friend only wanted to talk about herself, wouldn't you eventually stop calling her? In order to be supported, you must also provide support.

Kim said...

Wow, the idea just never occurred to me. How awful, but I suppose with the entire Internet out there some crazy stories are bound to crop up.

Generally though, I think what we get out of being open far outweighs the rather remote possibility that there are malingerers out there we might run into. There is so much good in the community... I have a small poorly-tended blog (you know, on my part) but when I was on bedrest and posting my stream of crazy-lady thoughts, I had a nice crew of mutual readers and their support was a lifeline.

I just saw the tv interview on Reproductive Jeans - so cool! Congrats Melissa!

caitsmom said...

I try to worry about myself and in doing that I can be more selfless in leaving people comments. Here's what I mean: I don't worry so much if others are dishonest; I worry about if I'm being honest and encouraging in my comments to others. That said, when I find out I've been deceived, I'm hurt. But, I'm not sure it's worth it to stop making the effort. I don't want to be a doormat, but then I do want to be helpful, and sometimes that's hard enough. Peace.

WiseGuy said...

Wrong is a wrong is a wrong....a fake story ultimately hurts everybody who became a part of it... God!

You could have asked that Ms. FameSeeker to enlist in ICLW....atleast everybody hits the list or most of it , every month...but yeah, there sure is one thing, if she cannot return the favour, she should not ask for it...

Jess said...

I'm sometimes a bit of a schmuck, but I say that that's not bad for me...what is it to me if I am too loving, too trusting, too nice? The fault is not my own, and I will never get to Heaven and have God tell me I was too kind to someone who was undeserving....see you later! You know? Fraud and the like is on their head, not mine.

Some stories, you know, ARE incredibly awful (I am thinking of my best internet friend, Cathy's situation right now). It seems as if it can't be, must not be, how COULD it be??? Yet...I have been with Cathy since the begining and I have no doubt that it IS what she says it is. And while we might question this person or that person....usually I believe people are truthful. So, in my mind, it's better to support and love with that in mind, and let the liars be liars and just hope no one gets hurt.

B said...

I find it hard to believe - even in your scenario Mel - that there would not be a huge fallout in terms of how infertility is percieved from somone "posing" as an infertile and gaining support from the rest of the community.

Another whacko to add to the list (people would still associate her with infertiles, even though s/he clearly wasn't). And a lot more suspicion which would ultimately add barriers.

I have sympathy for people who are doing this because they are using it to express another type of pain that is too confronting for others to look at and offer support.(as suggested by anon commentor on Niobes blog) Although I suspect this is not often the case. No matter the reason, a person doing this has some serious needs.

JamieD said...

I am a shy, timid person in nature and far too easily trusting. I started my blog so I could feel semi-anonymous in opening up my pain in ways I didn't feel like I could do IRL.

I have never been scammed since being a part of this community, but if I were, I would feel like this person was not only mocking the whole community but me personally. They would be taking away from the pain me or anyone else had actually experienced.

I don't know that any good done in the beginning wouldn't be destroyed by the fallout in the end. From that point on, if the public was confronted with a ~real~ IVF/IF case, there would always be that suspicion in the back of their minds. "She's probably just crazy like that X . . ."

Hope Endures said...

Wow. I don't know that I can quite describe how I feel right now - very unsettled. Naive, certainly.

It's only been recently that I've gotten over my fear of commenting (thank you ICLW), and I'm grateful for the relationships I've started forming with other bloggers. I am also grateful for the parts of themselves that they share so openly; I have found support and encouragement and hope in their stories. I think of, pray for, and email with some of them frequently. To find out that any of their stories are less than the truth would be devastating.

I guess it's good to be aware that emotional fraud happens, but I have to agree that I hope it doesn't lead us all to be more guarded. The level of caring and support that I've found so far in this community is not something that most of us have in real life. (At least, it's not something I have.) It's special and unique, and I hope that doesn't change.

"MissMelissa" said...

I read both your posts on emotional fraud, and I just hate the thought of it all. why do people take advantage of others??? UGH.

I hate that.


jenn said...

I've had somebody try and pull one over on me and a friend I had IRL. Her details didn't mesh, so she caught herself in her own lie. I will never understand why anyone would do this, or lie about having lost a baby, or having suffered through IF. Its really terrible that we need to think "Is this person telling the truth?" every time you read a blog. I write mine for me, and if I pick up readers and friends along the way great. Don’t get me wrong I do love the sense of community but, I don’t really blog for attention. I really think that most of us started our blogs as a place to let out some of the emotion and pent up frustration we have. It’s a shame that others would deliberately mislead people that way. Also its sad for them to obviously not have anything better to do with their time.

MrsSpock said...

I'm not sure good can come out of a lie. What happens when everyone finds out about the lie, and perceives us all as malingering or crying wolf?

CreoleInDC said...

There was a chick once that pretended she had cancer. I'm a cancer surviver and have the scars and fake boob to prove it and I know it's difficult. Supposedly she was a new mother and was dying and her blog was basically about her journey. Man...her posts were very touching.

One day folks showed up to her blog and there was a post from her "sister" stating the blogger had died the previous night. The "sister" wrote about how sweet her niece was and that she knew she'd face challenges being her guardian blah, blah, blah.

Turns out some folks' spidey senses went off because the writing style was the same and there was a word mispelled by the "sister" that the blogger often mispelled as well.

Long story short...after some checking around and serious internet was all found to be a lie. It ROCKED the blogosphere I'm a part of.

I couldn't believe someone would do that. Who would fake having cancer and who would fake their death? And then...who would pretend they were their own grieving sister so they could continue blogging?????

It was really weird. I said all that to say, however, that I didn't let that experience make my cynical of everyone thereafter and I'm a much better person because of it. I don't have a problem giving or feeling if my heart leads me in that direction.

Don't you change either. Who wants more cynical buttholes to deal with instead of positive, happy people?


Artblog said...

The only think I can add to all this is that it's quite clear to me after reading both post comments and Niobe's that some bloggers take blogging too seriously.

It's good and correct to care and show that care to complete stangers, and more so if you've met that person IRL but in general if you're giving money to someone in internet land that you've never met and have no idea are genuine or not, you've gone above simply caring and being interested in the outcome of someone's journey to something nearing unhealthy interest.

That's why, however sad it is to say and however mean it may sound, I think money/donations and blogging should be kept separate for so many reasons.

There are other always to donate to the cause but in general paying for holidays and treatments doesn't sound necessary when you think that WE ALL could do with financial aid for ART treatments and a good holiday to de-stress during, yet we don't ask for it and even if we didn't ask for it, those people shouldn't accept it.

I didn't much like the question in the first place.

We don't need an excuse to re-think who is being really honest or not and whether the person is a fake or not.

Why put mistrust in bloggers against other bloggers?

It's turning into one big cat fight full of mistrust and questioning and whoever asked this question in the first place really shouldn't have, sorry but you shouldn't have.

So LADIES, can we all get that old loving back PLEASE!

AND if someone out of thousands turns out to suffer from some sort of munchens thingy, too bad, there are plenty of genuine bloggers needing support and I don't see why a handful of fakes should spoil all that.