Social Question

prolificus's avatar

If deception was used in a discussion, would you want to know?

Asked by prolificus (6583points) May 1st, 2010

First of all, how do we know the authenticity of reality in the first place? For all any of us know, almost everything we experience could be a fabrication.

If you were an active participant in a discussion that involved intentional deception (for whatever reason), would you want to know? If so, when – before, during, or after the discussion?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

62 Answers

xxii's avatar

What is the purpose of this deception? Is it for psychological research purposes, or out of shame among strangers, or just for sh*ts and giggles?

prolificus's avatar

@xxii – this isn’t for research, but to process something personal. It is not to shame anyone, nor is it for giggles. It’s a real situation with elements changed in order to protect the innocent.

xxii's avatar

@prolificus – I would not feel at all upset about it if:
a) the situation was real, somewhere
b) my advice or my involvement in the situation was helpful to someone in the situation, even if not the person I thought I was helping.

I would like to know if there was deception involved, though I wouldn’t feel upset if I found out without being told. It wouldn’t matter when the deception was revealed to me, as long as the above conditions were met.

lillycoyote's avatar

Yes, of course. I pretty much always want to know when I am being lied to.

escapedone7's avatar

I know people hate it when I say “it depends”. However in this case that is all I can say. I have had people ask about a quarrel with a lover, that called the lover a “he” instead of a “she” out of not wanting to disclose it was a lesbian relationship. That doesn’t matter, and wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit. It was still a real argument, and what was being hidden was for personal reasons and wouldn’t effect the advice for quelling lovers quarrels one bit.

One girl however pretended to be a pregnant teen thrown out of her home, and out of having no place else to go pretended she moved in with the older man that impregnated her. She made him sound like a real creep that knocked up a kid, and claimed he was beating and abusing her to the point she was afraid of miscarraige. She would tell me things like after he beat her she started bleeding and asking if her water broke. She pretended like she had noplace to go and was terrified and almost hostage.
I gave her my cell number and quickly discovered it was a kid playing a game, but she had me very upset. She was playing a scam leading up to where she would ask me to send money to help her escape. When I caught her I nearly wanted to call the police on her. That kind of lie is inexcusable.

Basketcase's avatar

Hell yes! I want to know in advance.

I would not want to invest a ton of emotions, time, wording and concern over a post or multiple posts just to find out that I was not helping anything or, worse yet, just entertainment for a troll.

The people who post in response to troubling questions spend a lot of effort and care to do so. They really want to help. They take time out of their lives to try and touch another person and help.

Just because they are on line does not make it any less wrong than behaving that way in real life. Deception is deception.

Oh the other hand if I was told in ADVANCE that it was a hypothetical I would still spend the time and effort to respond but would not be drug through an emotional wringer.

Just my opinion.

prolificus's avatar

@escapedone7 – I used an alias to work through some issues I have with someone I know. The alias is a sketch of experiences I’ve had with this person. I felt that if I used my real profile, then I wouldn’t get the type of feedback I was looking for. I love getting support for my concerns, but in the case, I wanted to see how others would react to a scetch of the person.

I made sure I responded as appropriately as possible, while representing as close as possible the nature of this person.

I wasn’t being deceitful with the intent to cause trouble. Those are real questions the alias asked. None of it is fake (except one, in order to create a sense of realism). I was just asking from perspective of the alias.

If I had asked from my perspective, none of the answers would have been as they were because everyone would be patting me on the back. They would have been trying to advise me.

xxii's avatar

@prolificus – That’s why I would be 100% okay with that kind of situation. As long as my advice benefits somebody, somewhere, it doesn’t matter if the situation is actually different from my perception of it.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I would absolutely want to know. There’s no point in trying to have a discussion with someone if all they’re going to do is lie to you anyway.

Basketcase's avatar

@prolificus Why not open an account and as the question in detail as a hypothetical ?

escapedone7's avatar

That is actually kind of fascinating. Sometimes when I have a falling out with a friend I know what their reasoning and feelings are. To present the story from their point of view might illicit a different response.

But as long as the facts are the same, the reason for the argument, the need to save the friendship, or whatever, you are tackling a very real problem. Just considering the other persons point of view is a very interesting way to do it. That would not upset me. The scenarios where people make you think they are in a life or death situation and turn out to be playing games are extremely unethical. Hypothetical questions are not. It might be healthy to state that it is a hypothetical question that mirrors a problem in real life without disclosing personal details, but I don’t think it is necessary. I don’t believe you owe me everything. I don’t need to know your middle name or SSN to understand the heart of a problem: feuding friends who need to make up .

prolificus's avatar

@Basketcase – I’ve noticed that hypothetical questions don’t get as much energy and discussion. It becomes more like an intellectual debate instead of working with the actual problem. I can intellectually deal with the problem. I needed an emotional and real perspective.

wonderingwhy's avatar

If the person opening the discussion is looking for advice, I really isn’t relevant whether the situation/person is real or not – the advice remains the same given the details known to me. Obviously that’s then at the askers own risk as the advice might change if the details change. If it’s just a random conversation, again, for purposes of the discussion I have to consider the details presented as accurate. It makes no difference to me if it’s real or hypothetical, again the originator of the discussion assumes the risk if they choose to act under the knowledge I’ve provided. When it does matter is if the person is actively asking for me to render assistance or directing me in some form of activity. At that point I become physically and/or emotionally involved in the situation. Now, it’s no longer the other person who is taking the risk from their deception, I’ve been drawn into it too. Now I care and want to know, before hand or immediately and always prior to action, the truth. About the only instance where I can see I wouldn’t want to know is if it has no bearing on the outcome/goals/or actions necessary, though I’d still rather make that assessment myself.

DominicX's avatar


I once posted a hypothetical situation on as if I had actually experienced it. I did it to avoid comments like “well that wouldn’t happen”. I wanted to see what people would think if it actually did happen. And it was very interesting the results I got. I don’t think I could do it again, though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes, because I take each q as it is and (naively) believe that the person wants answers. I think I already addressed what you did elsewhere.

nikipedia's avatar

You say that you were trying to avoid people giving you advice and patting you on the back.

So what were you looking for? You were not actually interested in answers to the question that you asked—i.e., you didn’t actually want to know how to politely deliver an offensive statement, which is what the question was asking for.

Even though you are an active and valued member of the community, it sure looks like what you were doing was the textbook definition of trolling:

“In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” (wikipedia)

To answer your actual question, yes I would want to know if I had been deceived, and as soon as possible. You are correct in pointing out that we don’t know the authenticity of anything on the internet—we are stuck having to trust each other. So when people deceive us, they violate that trust.

laureth's avatar

Re: First of all, how do we know the authenticity of reality in the first place?

Reality is, by definition, authentic. If it is a deception, it is not authentic, and therefore not reality. There are those who say that “perception is reality,” but this is only true on the surface. If, for example, my husband told me he cheated on me, I would behave in a sad, outraged manner, believing it to be real for as long as I perceived it to be real – until he said “Gotcha.” It is not real. My perception did not make it so.

If you are wondering how to uncover deception in a conversation (to check authenticity), well, you can do that by seeing if any of the factual-appearing information is verified elsewhere. For instance, if Glenn Beck says “the ocean levels are not rising,” I can check with trusted ocean-measuring sources and see he’s full of baloney. It’s not impossible. (If you are one of those people who think, “How can we verify the ocean-measuring sources”, well, you could always mount an expedition to go measuring the ocean yourself.) Other information, like “Laureth’s favorite color is blue,” is harder to verify, but you could check it against things I’ve said in the past. (Again, there are those who say that life is an illusion, and reality as we know it is merely a figment of our imaginations. If this is so, Brad and Janet are quite safe.)

prolificus's avatar

@nikipedia – I see you point of view. I can see how it appeared to be trolling.

Full disclosure:

I am a lesbian.

I have parents who are retired ministers in a conservative Christian denomination.

I have been treated by my mom, in one way or another, exactly how itscomplicated was acting.

It was helpful for me to see things itscomplicated “said,” because it allowed me to see things I’ve missed from what my mom has told me. Mom has actually acted like itscomplicated, and I have missed her persepctive countless times.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus But you said them, not your mom – I don’t get how it was helpful to repeat what you’ve heard.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – a big “a-ha” moment for me was when itscomplicated said that she wanted to learn. My mom has said the same fears and concerns itscomplicated said in that thread. I was too busy defending myself and being offended by my mom, to notice that my mom said she wanted to learn. It’s hard to hear someone wants to learn to change if it is sandwiched in between harsh, judgemental statements.

Hearing the exchange between others and itscomplicated allowed me to has a new soft spot for my mom. I needed that more desperately than I could ever convey here.


These are the questions I posted under itscomplicated, in case anyone new to this thread doesn’t know what is going on:

How do I politely tell my daughter-in-law she cannot bring her brother to our family functions?

Why does it seem like the first reaction for an offensive question is anger?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Okay. I hope you understand why many will be upset at you, though. This is (and clearly you’re aware of this, as this pertains to your life) a pivotal issue that many of us have dealt with, have fought against, have struggled and thought about. It has taken many of us as queer people and as allies a long time to get where we are and every encounter like the one with your ‘mom’ cuts yet another cut, severs another thread to the world (especially seeing it over and over again, especially now in 2010). You try to forget about it, say it’s cliche, but that’s the point – we already know people with these views exist, no need to bring it to Fluther even more, they will come on their own. At the end of the day, you have to look back and weigh the benefits you obtained v. the harm you caused.

Fyrius's avatar

If it’s done for shits and giggles, and I fell for it, I’d congratulate you with a good joke.
I’ve done this sort of thing myself on Airow (peace be upon it), though I made work of making everything I said as ridiculous as I could get away with. And then a bit more.

But given the present situation… I think what you did was a bit devious. I also think you can’t take it for granted that the results you got would have been the same, had the person you were basing your replies on actually written everything herself.
But if doing this has led you to genuine insights regardless of that, well, good for you.

In all honesty, I can’t get worked up over this sort of thing any more. As a channer, I’m used to people trying to trick me left and right, and occasionally succeeding. Trolls aren’t so bad if you get to know them.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I’m listening to what you’re saying.

In a way, I was outing my mom and everything she represents. I have been protecting her in every way possible while being as real as possible about myself as represented by “prolificus.” Protecting her has been an act of deceit in of itself because no one knows the hell I’ve been through. People only know I have a puppy, a sexless ‘marriage’, an un-satisfied desire to have children, a strained mother-daughter relationship, and whatever other information can be ascertained by reading my questions and answers.

I do sincerely apologize for the hurt itscomplicated’s persona caused. It is a real hurt I have personally experienced in my real life.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus I totally hear you and understand but we all have our personal lives and don’t want to be toyed with. I understand you faced deceit and intolerance and what have you, but many of us can share the same kind of stories (perhaps a better q would have been just saying that and wondering how we’ve dealt with intolerant parents once they knew we were queer, etc. or even asking parents how they’ve dealt with their queer children and how they’ve changed.). Let’s just hopefully move on and if not anything else, it did bring many people together for a cause and showed many of us that this kind of thing is not tolerated. You have no need to apologize to me, I face this kind of stuff head on every day, it’s what I do. But I think it would be a good idea to post your apology at the end of that q that you asked (the first one).

Allie's avatar

I tend to think of it as a psych experiment or something. People willingly take part in the discussion, and it’s known that people who know they’re being evaluated (or think they might be being evaluated) change their behavior, so what kind of information does that provide? False information from false pretenses? Meh. I think it would be ok to mislead people who partake willingly as long as you let them know it was all a set up afterwards (kind of like a debriefing thing).

jerv's avatar

Personally, I find such deception a perfectly valid reason to avoid dealing with anybody, to sequester myself from society, and give up on humanity.

I have enough problems dealing with people as it stands since I am a bit limited in the sort of social skills that most people develop naturally, and it’s hard enough to accept how irrational humans are in the first place just by their very nature. Throwing a curveball like intentional deceit into the mix really skews my cost/benefit ratio of dealing with people towards becoming a total hermit.

I understand intellectually why you did what you did, @prolificus , but on a more visceral level, I deal with enough frustration in my daily life as it stands without this sort of stuff.

Silhouette's avatar

So you were deceiving us when you asked about inviting your daughter in laws brother for dinner or were you deceiving us when you called homosexuality an abomination? Well, it doesn’t change my answer so knowing, not knowing, doesn’t matter either way. I will say this, it seems a little sneaky and manipulative.

prolificus's avatar

@Silhouette – I was not deceiving you about the DIL issue, it’s a real situation. The identities have been changed to protect the innocent. I was not deceiving you about itscomplicated calling homosexuality an abomination. This is something that has actually been said in real life by the person represented by itscomplicated. Itscomplicated represented my experience of my mom.

Silhouette's avatar

@prolificus Ahhh. Like I said, it wouldn’t change my answer so there ya go.

liminal's avatar

@prolificus why do you think itscomplicated ignored the people genuinely reaching out to her? Why did she not respond to those trying to meet her where she was at, both through pms and publicly?

prolificus's avatar

@liminal – I tried to be careful using itscomplicated’s alias so that I wouldn’t set people up to build a relationship with her, because she wasn’t my mom speaking as my mom. Itscomplicated was about my mom. I felt that if I engaged people directly, via pms and public forum, then I would be using itscomplicated in an unethical manner. I didn’t want people to form a relationship with an alias.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Obviously that happened regardless – it takes a millisecond to form a relationship especially if you feel angry, you know?

Basketcase's avatar

I understand (to a degree) the original motivation for asking of the question. It is unclear to me how it could have benefited your situation however if you feel it did then that is a positive.

What I do not understand the need to continue the deception across multiple quips that fanned the flames of emotion.

Nor do I get the asking of a new second question labeling gays that also spooled people up to the point that the user was identified as a troll by other users who were emotionally done. Please do not do this again in this manner.

That being said I do think your apology was a classy move.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I know. I tried to keep it as minimal as possible. But, I’m hearing that my intentions don’t matter.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Well, listen, we’re coming to this discussion in a post factum manner and therefore it’s harder to respond objectively without feeling fooled, which is what happened. Intent matters, at least given my life philosophy but I heard of your intent and can still see that it was unethical (besides, intent is not the only thing that matters, in any situation). Basically, you did something for yourself at the expense of the collective. Besides, given how the question was going and how the second question (which should not have been asked – shows a continued involvement on your part in the deception) was going and causing people to question why it was changed (I know there was a mod mix up explained later but it further made people angry), you should have revealed your ‘intention’ much earlier because you should have recognized that fluther, as a community, was affected more than you were learning.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – This is the last time I’m going to say this:

I hear you.

I apologize.

I have learned.

I won’t do this ever again for as long as I live.

I will listen to everyone’s feelings and thoughts on this issue without defending my actions.

I will answer questions where clarification is needed.

This is all I can do from this point forward.

Dog's avatar

@prolificus I added Itscomplicated to my fluther when she made her first post. Anyone who likes to enjoy relaxing time alone with a good bottle of wine rocks.

Was that you who likes good wine and alone time? Just on the off-chance it was I added you to my Fluther. (I even had to boot out another user to make room for you) :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus You are correct – that’s all you can do. And I think you’ll have to because more people will realize what’s happened and demand answers. This is what I call ‘consequences of a shady action’ – something we all have to face, at times. It is not my intention to beat a dead horse so I will bow out and say that I am not trying to rub your face into it – I’m just thinking some others will/might say meaner things than I so it’s good to be prepared.

prolificus's avatar

@Dog – Yes. It was her. I only wish my mom enjoyed alone time and a good bottle of wine. It would make my life so much easier!

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

The value of knowing the truth outweighs any temporary benefit from indulging my pride.

So, what benefit did you get from trolling the site under a different persona?
What sort of epiphanies can we expect to see as a result of your deception?

liminal's avatar

@prolificus and @Dog us alone time wine drinkers offered some good suggestions to that question, even if mom never figures it out -I hope others benefit. ;)

Dog's avatar

They might ask questions but I think they will be civil :)
(Because Jellies RAWK!)

prolificus's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy – Epiiphanies?

BTW… So that I don’t continue to feel like I’m being accused of something I was not trying to do, here is a direct quote from what I said to a mod:

PM Quote:

With all due respect and in a gentle tone I want to say this:

__________, I want to address something so that I don’t continue to feel accused of something I wasn’t doing.

By you highlighting the deceit and trouble-making in the TOS, I feel that I’m being accused of doing this.

I wasn’t being deceitful with the intent cause trouble. Those are real questions itscomplicated asked. None of it is fake (well maybe the wine, mom doesn’t drink). I was just asking from mom’s perspective. If I had asked from my perspective, none of the answers would have been as they were because everyone would be patting me on the back instead of kicking my mom’s ass or trying to reason with her. They would have been trying to advise me.

I don’t think it’s fair that itscomplicated is being removed. TOS says we can ask questions under another alias if we don’t want it associated with our acct. That is exactly what I did. I created an acct representing something real in my life, just from another perspective. Now, I don’t have an outlet to see my mom’s point of view or to see how to deal with it. I also think that itscomplicated gave people like me a chance to express things we cannot normally directly say to people like itcomplicated. People like itscomplicated aren’t on fluther, so there is no real opportunity to have this type of dialogue.”

End Quote

prolificus's avatar

P.S. Going to eat dinner now. Not observing this thread until later.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Okay, a pm is a pm – keep it there. We don’t need these details. I’m having the strongest feeling that you’re having trouble understanding how to interact on these kinds of forums – I am no sure if this kind of stuff was okay on AB, but again this site is quite different.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This situation has been resolved between @prolificus and the mods. While we don’t agree with what @prolificus did, we do understand why she did it. A public apology was not requested or expected by us, but now that it’s been given, let’s try to show some compassion along with our upset, ok?

BTW, the PM she posted was to me, and I have no problem with it’s public appearance.

chyna's avatar

@augustlan A true lady, as always.

liminal's avatar

@prolificus re: being careful about forming relationship and my response to what took place.

I tenderly invested myself into itscomplicated’s issues. I had certain people on fluther, like you (prolificus), and people in my daily life in mind. I had other people like itscomplicated in mind. I thought of all the future people who may come across the questions. I entered into those question and dialogue with itscompicated because I have seen much pain and hurt happen in such dynamics. I was actually looking forward to, and hoping, that a very fruitful discussion would take place. That a real life example of how these issues could be wrestled through might happen. All because I truly believe such issues can be addressed in a respectful and loving way.

I gave of myself because I think this is the only way to bring about true change of heart with such delicate issues. To find out that there was no intention to receive my giving, no intention to meet me half-way, reminds me of the very pains, issues such as this, have brought into my life. No, it causes me to feel that pain again.

I think I understand why you undertook such a thought experiment and I hear that you apologize for causing hurt. I even hear that you have learned from it, and I hope your relationship with your mother is better for it. I truly do. I also respect you for the courage it took to reveal yourself.

I am left feeling sad that these issues never had a chance to be addressed deeply, thoughtfully, and respectfully.

Trillian's avatar

@prolificus I salute you for coming clean. That takes a certain fortitude, I think. I’m glad you told us mainly because I felt that I had given several thoughtful answers and was not happy that the person did not answer me.
My only problem is that the person who inspired the questions did not see our answers. Maybe you could copy some of them and post them out where she can read occasionally. I meant every word that I said.

prolificus's avatar

This is where I’ll be for the next couple of hours, days, weeks, months… let me know when I’m permitted to stand up again. <soft smile>

liminal's avatar

@prolificus I hope you don’t hear punishment in what I said. I am actually okay with people creating profile’s to work things through. What I said is about more than that.

augustlan's avatar

No punishment necessary, as far as I’m concerned. Lessons were learned by many, apologies were made, no need for anything else. :)

Dog's avatar

Can we all just have a (((GROUP HUG)))) and open a bottle of wine? :)

liminal's avatar

@Dog even sounds better than alone time!

Dog's avatar

:D Yes it does!

Arisztid's avatar

Well, I learned something out of this: I am nowhere near as intelligent as I thought I was and a lot more gullible.

Arisztid's avatar

Oh, the reason I am particularly gullible and not as intelligent as I thought is that I actually said something that I regretted.

prolificus's avatar

@Arisztid – For what’s it is worth… I would not label you (or anyone else who participated in those threads) as gullible or not as intelligent. I’m sorry that you came away from this with those feelings.

GingerMinx's avatar

Lies are lies. To be honest, I can accept you making another account to ask a question from a different point of view, but it is most frustrating and annoying to have that question changed after answering it so that the answers look silly. Can I request my answer to that question be removed?

Arisztid's avatar

I am not going into the feelings I have regarding this incident. What I described are mild irritants and just a written facepalm.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther