Hindi Film 101: Social Media Stories and Truth

This is going to be a tricky discussion to start. My Dad just sent me a link to a fascinating story in the New York Times about a twitter hoaxster, and it played into a concern I have had for a while about how anonymous social media internet sources are used again and again as though they are unquestionable truth told to you by a friend. Oh, and remember, NO POLITICS. But I am very interested in social politics, if that makes sense? If you want to talk about gender issues or race issues, totally here for you. Just nothing related to specific political parties and how they use the internet.

Here’s the article that inspired this post, I encourage you all to read it: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/style/college-coronavirus-hoax.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

What’s interesting to me is that it was a hoax within a different kind of hoax, the second hoax is clear and obvious and horrible, but it grew out of the first one that was a bit harder to see and harder to attack. There was a female science professor who jumped on the #MeToo bandwagon and started a group with a kind of loose definition of purpose to deal with #MeToo cases in STEM fields. She was working with some other people in real life and was terrible to deal with, took all the credit, wouldn’t listen to their ideas, would lash out at random. And she was racist, the women of color in her group left because they weren’t being listened to, and at least one other woman of not-color also left because she saw it happening and didn’t like it. But she was good at working social media. She even set up a GoFundMe account that raised $79,000, but that money never had a specific purpose designed by the rest of the organization, and they never really saw the money. This is a real person using her real name and history on the internet, but she is spinning what she does so expertly that in effect it is a con job. While the other people who are doing the same work and know her in “reality” are bad at social media and therefore sink into nothing, the woman who is racist and angry and disorganized can sell a good story and raise $80,000.

Let’s think about GoFundMe for a moment. Do you all know about GuideStar? And CharityNavigator? They are both very old boring organizations, and all they do is track charities by basic metrics like how much of their money goes to services versus salaries and so on. If you want to be sure your money is actually being used for what you want it to be used for, you need to check the organization out on one of those pages first. And if you hear bad things about a group (for instance, the Big Cat Rescue that got terribly maligned in the Tiger King documentary on Netflix), go there first and confirm before you start believing things. It’s easy and quick and clear to read the information. Of course, it could still be lies, but it is based on federal filing information, so if they are lying, it’s a federal go-to-jail-for-many-years offense, not just a “take the money and then announce you couldn’t make your program work and go to the Bahamas” offense.

The down side is that in order to be sure their information is accurate, GuideStar and CharityNavigator want a few years of IRS tax form history. If you are a new organization, you won’t have that history available, so you won’t be given a rating. And if you are a very new organization, you are still going through all the hoops to prove not for profit status and aren’t even filing taxes yet. When you give money through GoFundMe, or direct to a newer organization, hopefully you are giving a helping hand to a group that isn’t yet established enough to go after bigger money. But you run the risk that you are giving money directly to a scam. Personally, I only donate to either established groups that have GuideStar and CharityNavigator ratings, or to smaller groups that I think are doing such important work I am willing to risk it being a scam if there is a chance it is true.

This is why I don’t give money to Susan G. Komen. These sites don’t grade on a curve, there are loads of organizations that are score of 100 and rating of 4 stars. I want to give my breast cancer money to a group, of which there are many, that has a rating of 100. Not the one that has the great PR and a rating under 90.

So, this woman, she used the GoFundMe option to raise money for her organization that had no history and no ranking on the real legitimate charitable tracking sites. She used social media to promote herself and make people believe and trust her. And then it started to fall apart a bit when no programs appeared, and her fellow leadership began publicly disowning her on social media.

At which point we get the second social media account, which is a total hoax. In order to support her “real” social media persona, she created a fake one that posted a lot of support and became somewhat aggressive defending her “real” self. Better yet, this fake persona could be whatever she needed. It became a woman of color, Native American, a struggling science professor dealing with harassment at her university, and eventually a woman who got the Corona Virus because her university “forced” her to keep teaching in person classes. And then she died.

People were very upset about this of course. What did it mean that this poor woman of color was forced to teach classes and it literally killed her? When would we learn to be better to people? And maybe her twitter was a bit aggressive and erratic and you disagreed with it before, but such a tragic story now! You have to let all that go. Until someone (who was already suspicious) contacted the school she claimed to work at, and a few other sources, and confirmed that this was absolutely false. Such a spectacular story, so easy to get online attention, also means it is very easy to disprove. Just, no one bothered for a surprisingly long time to try to disprove it. Even scientists, people who should live and die on evidence, just went along with what they are told because it seemed impolite to question.

This article identifies her as a “twitter warrior”, but maybe that should come with a question of “why is that her medium of choice?” And also, “what is it actually doing, what effect does it have?” The actual article is well-researched, including discussion of law suits against her and other early indications of trouble. But the presentation, including the headline, is slanted towards the most buzzy social media friendly “of course we believe what she is saying” version. Why are her own words on Twitter taken as confirmation in some way of what she says in an interview, instead of just more data from the same source? Why is there such a fear of attacking popular social media figures who are ripe for investigation?

One thing the article quoted that I found very interesting was a representative for Native American groups on why people like to pretend to be Native American. And why they are so good at it. What she said was, “These Pretendians are better at it than we are, because they don’t carry our specific trauma”.

Let’s talk Social Media and bullying. There has been a lot of discussion of who the social media bullies are and what they gain from it and so on. But what about the victims? I don’t think they are all the same. If I am telling a true story of my trauma, online bullying will devastate me. But if I am telling a false story, that same bullying will have no effect, may even be what I want. Because I don’t carry the trauma with me. The same is true off-line, there are stories of spectacular frauds that were all about getting attention good or bad. But I suspect the number of people who enjoy online attention good or bad and will commit fraud to get it is higher than the number of people who enjoy real life attention, who are willing to put their real names and faces out there, and take questions from journalists and police and everyone else.

Edgar Laplante and Bride | Department of Heritage and Arts | J ...
Edgar LaPlante is a fascinating case, a conman who started pretending to be a false Native American chief. And became more popular and successful at it than real Native American celebrities of the same time period, because he was willing to be what folks wanted him to be. Magical, mystical, wise, instead of conflicted and traumatized about his heritage. And he was probably far less hurt by racism and prejudice coming back at him than people who had experienced it their whole lives.

I suspect there is a continium of emotion response to online interactions this because I know that I do not react in the “expected” way to online feedback. I am so extremely sensitive that for me reading something online is the same as experiencing it in real life off line. When I read something on Twitter or Facebook it feels the same to me as if someone had picked up the phone and said it into my ear. That can be a good thing, it is why I get so much pleasure from DCIB, my conversations in the comments here feel like an intimate phone call with old friends, not just letters on my computer screen. But it also means that conflict and unpleasantness online feels exactly as painful to me as conflict and unpleasantness in the real world. When I run across people yelling at each other on the internet, it is as though I am standing at a bus stop watching two people two feet away from me have a massive angry shouting match. I HATE IT! I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel happy, it scares me and makes me cry. I certainly would never behave that way myself because I would be upset just watching/reading my own words, if that makes sense. If I am going to say something that might upset people (like this post, come to think of it), it is because I feel it is very VERY important to say, I believe it deeply, it is meaningful to me, and it is (as far as I understand things), Truth. And I am also going to do everything I can to de-escalate the conversation about it, and even pull the post down or change the conversation if it gets too scary for me. I know most other people don’t feel like this, don’t even understand what I am trying to describe. If I feel like this and other people do not, than that means the response to internet conversations is unique and personal, which means some people may be as far on the insensitive side as I am on the sensitive side.

I know my response is a wrong one, an illogical one. They aren’t standing next to me shouting, they are far away and can’t hurt me, they probably don’t even care that much and will forget their argument as soon as they walk away from the computer. I’m safe, no one is mad at me, no one is unhappy, I should just read it and laugh and move on. I think a lot of people do read it and laugh and move on most of the time. If they didn’t, social media would be far less popular than it is. But if it is directed at you, then it feels different of course. If you aren’t just standing next to an argument but actually the one being yelled at, there will be an effect. Maybe an effect you didn’t even know you would feel because you had never been the subject of online conflict before, and the conflict unrelated to you does not bother you.

The people who have experienced this before, they tend to be cautious on social media, you see that a lot with celebrities, they will be slow to put up a controversial post and careful in their words when they do so, and then take a break afterwards. The people who haven’t, they will be shocked and unhappy and usually you see them disappear after their post is up, maybe even take it down because they don’t feel strongly enough to leave it in place and put up with the unexpected response.

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Deepika is a mental health activist and public figure, she put up this carefully worded non personal social media post and then did not interact in any way with anyone who commented, and moved her instagram conversation forward to other things. A less experienced person might have gotten angry as she immediately became the target of bullying. A less public person would have not risked the post to begin with. But as a professional public figure, she said a very calm considered thing and then left it alone.

But what I want to say here, very very gently so no one gets mad at me, is that if you are a person who has never experienced strong online bullying before than perhaps you are not being careful in what you put up. Perhaps you don’t think too much before you put up a post maybe slightly exaggerating something that happened to you, because everyone exaggerates sometimes, and you like getting attention, because everyone likes getting attention. And later when that post upsets people it shocks you out of the social media bubble, makes you take back your words not exactly because you are scared, but because you are waking up to the risk of saying something you aren’t willing to fight for.

This is different from saying something like that in real life to a person who is in front of you, in that case the response is immediate, that person says “wait, you are saying so-and-so said a racist insult to you?” And their response makes you walk it back, makes you think “wow, that was a really big thing I said, am I sure?”, so that the correction is immediate, you say “okay, well, maybe, I have to think about it.” Or, the opposite response is immediate, you say “yes, that is what I am saying, I have thought deeply about this and I am ready to do whatever it takes”. When I see someone who says something that seems, maybe, not carefully thought through and considered on social media, and then later gets pushback against it and rescinds, I don’t necessarily assume they were “scared off”. I think that maybe they hadn’t thought through the consequences of their initial statement because they hadn’t thought there were consequences to casual things you say online. And when I see that same person follow up the casual statement with a very careful specific considered slightly different statement, I don’t think “oh they are lying because it isn’t the same”, I think “they weren’t thinking that much about it the first time, this second time they are aware of what they are doing and are saying exactly what they mean”.

Hannibal Buress' Mic Cut After Joking About Molestation in Church ...
Not an exact example, but remember Hannibal Buress and the Cosby joke? He had a part of his stand up routine about Bill Cosby and rapes. He said it, someone recorded it, it went viral, made the story new again, inspired new survivors to come forward, started a whole movement. As soon as he said it, there was a firestorm of debate about it and so on, and he simply did not address it. He said what he meant, clearly, because he never walked it back or tried to expand, the statement was something he could stand by. That is what I look for with these social media revelations, the sense that you say something because you have to get it off your chest, and you don’t care about interacting with the response or making yourself part of the story.

But there is another reaction that I think is maybe more common than is understood now, in this early time of social media? And that is to feel happy when you are yelled at. The “any attention is good attention” feeling. People who, like normal folks, would hate to get into big scary shouting matches in real life, somehow thrive on them online, don’t feel that the fight is “real” enough to be scary, but is “real” enough to get their adrenaline going. In that case, you maybe have an initial casual not carefully thought out statement, which grows and grows and grows as the anonymous person behind it enjoys the sensation of leading a movement, of getting attention, of “me against the world”. The storm and battle around the statement, which in real life would make me believe it more (because who would go through all of this if it wasn’t true?), online sometimes makes me believe it less (because I think a lot of people might go through an internet firestorm that is isolated from their real life and enjoy themselves, might in fact tell a lie in order to enjoy it).

And I think that is what happened with this particular story. Forget the absolute hoax account, look at the “real” account. This woman co-opted the #MeToo movement, she enjoyed telling her story in a public setting and turned that into a scam and a way to get money and power. While for other people telling their stories online turned into court cases and investigations and so on, was a difficult nightmare they only did in an attempt to help others, for her it was fun. This story makes it very clear, the desperation for attention, the ease of lying, and the incredible ease of being believed so long as you say just the right thing (which you can do, because you aren’t carrying the trauma with you that makes saying the right thing and appearing the right way so hard), can lead the online Social Media voices to be totally divorced from the real people who should be believed and helped. There probably are a lot of people creating totally false online identities. But there are an even larger number of people creating semi-false identities, spinning their real story in the way best calculated to get them the attention (and in some cases money and opportunities) that they want. How do we as a society handle that? How do we address it?

Don't Call It Bollywood: An Introduction to the Hindi Film ...
Gonna use myself as an example. If you google me, my book should be one of the first things that pops up. That’s how I want it, I feel uncomfortable selling myself rather than my work. Like, ethically uncomfortable. I could go into the world and slightly spin my story, make myself out to be a sexually available young white woman who likes Indian culture and bring in all the thirsty Indian boys. Or I could spin it as Indian film and philosophy and colors and respect for elders and bring in all the white people looking for a simple uncomplicated fantasy of other cultures. That would be wrong, that is not who I truly am or what I truly believe. But it is what I would do if I were more focused on making people like me than like my work, more focused on getting myself out there instead of my message, and I think that sort of self-promotion is very easy to do on social media and obscures reality in a dangerous way. From my own experience, I tend to believe people far more when they are less present on social media.

I don’t really have a conclusion here. Just starting a conversation about different responses to online bullying, the way social media and new internet sites can assist with fraud, and the way our human desire to believe people should maybe be tweaked a little with an awareness that folks online aren’t necessarily “people”, but just words on a page. Wait until there is a name behind those words, a story you can confirm outside of the bubble, actual work and not just spin, and then believe it.

Also, don’t give money to charities without looking them up on Charity Navigator or GuideStar! It’s so simple, and it makes the world such a better place.

47 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Social Media Stories and Truth

  1. Wait, now how do I confirm that those navigators of yours are legit? I haven’t heard of them before, but maybe they’re US specific?

    Trying to think of an adequate response to the rest of this very deep thinky post, but I guess I’ll have to sleep on it and see what other people have come up with first.

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    • They are US specific, it’s based on the tax documents in America. Not for profits have to be transparent in their tax filings, and the filings are public, so you can see just where the money goes. No idea if there are similar laws in other countries. They are legit, GuideStar in particular, they are an institution at this point, the one stop shop everyone uses from foundations to private philanthropists.

      And I know it is a hard thinky post! You can always just respond to one part of it, like “where I can read more about the 1920s conman?”

      On Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 2:39 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • What surprises me about the article is the guy saying he had interacted with the fake account for years. I would have expected that by that time you get to know a “person”/account a little. But then, I’ve never been an avid user of social media. I haven’t found facebook useful for much that an email wouldn’t have accomplished. I’m no good with taking photos, so instagram isn’t for me. And twitter is useful for an institution or for a tweet-along where it’s a little like shouting at the screen together. But why would I want to shout into the void? About what?

        On forums/blogs, there’s always a topic you’re talking about, and even if the other participants are just words on a page, you get to know them by their opinions and the way they express them. At least that’s how I feel. Those words don’t appear on the page by themselves. And I guess even if all your posts had been written by a bot, then I’d still have to ascribe a certain personality to that bot – at least in its “Margaret Redlich” persona.

        Yes, people are probably playing up (what they feel are) their more desirable qualities. But wouldn’t we try that in real life, too? Maybe what makes the internet unique is that you can’t really verify what categories someone belongs too. Everyone can “pass” for anything they want. Which actually is a great thing, come to think of it. It just means that you can also never trust anyone online claiming to represent any of those categories on any issue. That beyond the basic truth that even if they truly are a member of that category, there will always be other voices.

        I don’t think any of the people who feel at home on this very calm and considerate blog would be the kind who enjoy online shouting matches. So we’re probably not much help to you in unraveling that mystery. I have to say, though, that even offline, if I heard people shouting at each other at a bus stop or something, I’d just try to ignore it and keep my distance. At least as long as I didn’t know those people.

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        • I’m with you about interacting with an online account for years and not realizing it was fake. But maybe it is more superficial interactions than what you or I would have? On the blog here we get to really know each other, slowly, over time. And sure you could be lying about stuff like going on a beach vacation with your family, but why? And we had a whole conversation about it, it wasn’t just one thing you said. And I could be lying about having foot surgery, but again, why? If I were on twitter, I could just put up a tweet like “foot hurts, boo-hoo!” with a photo, but that feels like an easier lie and less of myself than someone here in the comments saying “oh by the way, how is your foot?” and me complaining about being bored stuck in bed. I don’t know, maybe it’s what you said about twitter feeling like shouting into the void. Here, if we are lying to each other, we are lying TO each other. It’s not just saying something false to the world, it’s lying to specific people we are talking to over and over again for years. And that feels far harder to keep up.

          What I try to take from the internet being anonymous is a reminder that I never know who I am talking to, in a way that I should act in real life as well. Mostly that I should never assume my experience is greater than theirs, on a personal level. Don’t say something very confident about being a victim of racism and how it makes you the end-all be-all authority, because the person you are “talking” to online may have a history of racial suffering far greater than yours, you don’t know. And don’t do that in real life either, don’t make a joke or tell a story or claim an authority you may not deserve, because you don’t really know the story of the one you are talking to. I have experienced that myself, in a very minor way, been informed I was wrong about something based on someone else’s personal experience, and thought about it later and realized I have a greater personal experience. But I didn’t choose to share it. Which means everyone I am talking to online could or could not have equal personal experiences or expertise or whatever to what I am saying and not choose to share it, and I should not dismiss anyone. Does that make sense? The anonymity should change the way we behave towards other people, more than how it changes the way we act about ourselves, because we just don’t know. You can’t trust anyone claiming to belong to a category, or have a certain experience, but you also can’t assume that someone is NOT part of that category just because they don’t claim it online.

          I’m definitely a “move away and try to ignore it” person with bus stop shouting matches. But it’s upsetting, isn’t it? You can tell yourself “I don’t know these people, it’s none of my business, they aren’t going to hurt me”, but it’s still upsetting and leaves you feeling shakey for the rest of the day, just being close to something like that.

          On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 5:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. This was a fantastic post. I guess my response to social media has been to a) have a presence on a platform and remove myself when it gets too much. Not just in terms of anger, as you mentioned, but even joy. It’s a little exhausting to be on Insta/Linkedin etc. and see people skipping around joyfully, almost as exhausting as it would be being in the midst of a musical in person and b) Put out strong, well defined opinions only in my own safe space on the internet (a website of one’s own) that people who care enough seek out, whether to agree or disagree. The Internet is very Much, kind of like a big city, but it’s not something that I want to get so inured to that I can tune it out, more like. Stop, breathe in that city air, and then put on my headphones and continue with my day.

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    • Yes! I like the city comparison. I live in a city, and I love it, but I love it because there is a line between me and other people. I enjoy riding the bus or walking down the street or sitting in a coffee shop and feeling the energy around me. But I’m not someone who will strike up a conversation with a stranger, or seek out the really overwhelming crowded places (concerts and loud bars and stuff like that), I want to keep my distance and watch the world going by. And then go back to my apartment and invite in a few people and talk to them.

      Sounds like we get similarly exhausted by social media. But there must be those who thrive on it, otherwise it wouldn’t last, right? The same thing you and I find overwhelming they find energizing.

      On Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 6:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Another great non-so-film related post. Yes, Guidestar is always useful in reviewing a charity’s financial information. Guidestar and Foundation Center have combined to come candid.org. Local library systems often provide access to the pro version where you can see more details about the organization.

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    • I’ve spent hours searching on Guidestar, it’s fascinating what charities just talk a good game and which ones actually do the work.

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  4. The “cancel culture” has become so toxic,the world needs to take a step back.There are so many problems in the world,why can’t people just limit their words to praise and appreciation.Social media offers you to block,restrict,dislike or report whatever you find offensive.People forget when to direct their ire to a person,and when to a company.But taking the ganging up in comments approach is equivalent to starting a street war without consulting the police or the court or a legal authority.And unfortunately,this negativity has hurt both India and US,and surprisingly opposite extremes are being strived to touch in both places.If we look back in retrospection,even a pandemic couldn’t bring us closer.
    Quite amusingly,I joined Tumblr a few years ago for my love of Disney,and drew back because of the general negativity about something as basic as cartoons.Sometimes I feel certain sites should have 16years as the MAXIMUM age to join,because kids literally have no place where they can avoid this negativity.
    The only community where I have found positivity and conscious efforts to make a change is perhaps the Historical/ish Costuming/Clothing/Sewing.

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    • I hadn’t thought about it, but you are right, there is no place for kids to just be kids and be happy. As soon as you join social media, you are introduced to negativity and ugliness and the kind of mob mentality. Unless you are here, of course, which isn’t really a “kid” kind of place, but at least we are all nice and calm and happy.

      Another comment talked about the difference when you are on a blog or a forum that has a specific topic. Maybe that is why historical costumes is so calm in your experience? It’s a very specific interest that you have to be really committed to before you seek out a community. It’s not something someone would stumble on because they want to make a big fuss about something.

      On Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 10:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Sockpuppetry is alive and well, I see. I don’t know about you, Margaret, but I’ve been in some online fandom for 20 or so years so there isn’t a form of online grift, fraud, or drama I haven’t seen, and in some cases been close to. Current mainstream culture is extremely naive about online content and therefore you cannot blame people for also being naive about it, but it leads to very, very undesirable results, especially since actual political parties and government bodies do become involved.

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    • I have never been part of an online community, except for this one. Because, blech! People shouting! I have done my fair share of lurking on sites similar to this, high quality pop culture reviews with lots of moderated comments. It’s interesting on those sites because, like here, people will reveal things about themselves in the comments and you have to decide if you believe it or not. These are calm sites, so it’s not stuff like “you are dumb and wrong and I know that because I am a neuroscientist!” where you are immediately suspicious because they just pulled something out of a hat to support their argument. But stuff like someone saying they, I don’t know, can relate to something in a TV show because they had a miscarriage themselves 5 years earlier. And then they get a couple people saying “I am so sorry that happened to you” and the conversation moves on. Is it true? If it is a lie, wouldn’t they have made a bigger deal about it instead of just mentioning it here? Or are there some people who enjoy telling even this small meaningless lies for some tiny bit of validation in return? And should I even care enough to think about it? If it is a lie, it is a pretty harmless one, they aren’t trying to get money or fame for it, so I might as well let it go.

      Oh! I have one other experience which was HILARIOUS! There’s a website that is one journalist obsessively covering the details of state government here. The state workers all read it, that’s how I know about it from back when my Dad worked for the state. It’s really hardcore, no bells and whistles, just very specific details about bills and budgets and things. Anyway, back when we had the insanely corrupt nutty governor who ended up in jail, a new commenter “Bob” showed up on the site regularly defending the governor. These are serious political animals here, so he was immediately called out as one of the governors hacks, and made fun of quite a bit for it. But the funny thing is, Bob stayed around! He started commenting on other non-governor stories too! And at some point he must have gotten fired because he stopped defending the governor, but he stayed on the site! Even after his ex-boss went to prison. So here’s a guy who is given the job of monitoring a news site and trying to spin the story, and he ended up falling in love with the site and the community and sticking around. Like a spy who is seduced by the rebels.

      On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 3:11 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • There’s also the small lies, like “I had a miscarriage”, that get you a small amount of validation, and maybe are because you needed the validation but weren’t comfortable sharing your real truth? Like, if you were raped but don’t feel comfortable telling people that, while at the same time craving some sense of love and support, I am totally fine with you slightly changing the story to something else in order to get a little sympathy. I guess it’s all about the context as well, a little lie in a forum or a comments section is very different from the people who build whole communities specifically around their lie, those bloggers and stuff who create fake cancer journeys or whatever.

          And yes, Bob! I’m so glad he found his little community and escaped our nutty governor’s evil grasp.

          On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 8:29 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I don’t mind small lies like that, but they can build up, and if someone is constantly hijacking the comments with their dramatic stories you have to mod them. But you’d notice if it was like that. I haven’t seen anything like that here.

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          • Oh yeah, I don’t think anyone is lying here. I never thought that, and then this spring I did my little National Tour and met in person about half the long time commenters and confirmed that, in fact, they all were who they said they were. That was confirmation enough for me, I will continue to believe that everyone is who they say they are here.

            Of course I say that, and you are just laughing at me, because you are probably some middle aged American southern redneck playing a long con on all of us.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 8:41 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • It’s the internet! Everyone lies! This is all a long con, in 5 years you will start pretending you need money to pay for your parrot surgery and sucker us all into a GoFundMe campaign.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 9:07 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Maybe I am being naiive, but to me, when I read someone sharing a personal anectode to explain why he or she relates to a character or movie, I just assume it is to show where the person may be coming from. I do that a lot when I feel like I am not discussing facts but subjective opinions based on my experiances. The personal anecdote is just to give context and help explain where my subjective reaction is coming from. So when someone expresses symathy for the personal portion, I will acknowledge that sympathy, but move on because I am not looking to have a full discussion on the personal anecdote.

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          • Maybe that’s the behavior I am seeing that makes me trust those stories in a way I wouldn’t trust someone who puts up a long Facebook post about their struggle with breast cancer? Saying something personal in the contest of a larger discussion, and then moving the conversation forward from that, is different from making your personal thing the actual larger discussion.

            I shouldn’t say “trust”, I choose to assume they are telling the truth in that case. It could still be a lie, anything could be a lie, but there is no big purpose to it that I can see and no big problem it is causing, so it could just as easily be the truth and I should treat it as such. But it would be different I guess if someone said (to use something you have said), “I can relate to this because I grew up in a small town”, and then the response was “That’s interesting, I also loved the character in this movie”, and the first person came back with “yes, but AS SOMEONE FROM A SMALL TOWN, I can relate more, and this is why, and you don’t understand at all”. Like, pushing their personal narrative into the conversation over and over again instead of letting it go. I’ve never seen that here of course, but I have actually seen that kind of behavior moderated on other sites. Could be a lie, could be truth, the point is you are making yourself the center of the discussion instead of the thing everyone else wants to talk about.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 9:21 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Completely agree. When the personal anecdote is the focul point and used as some sort of weapon to put others down or gain importance, then I start to either question the authenticity of the anecdote, or think maybe it is true but engaging in a fued over personal experiances is just not productive, so I stop engaging. At best, in-person, I relieaze that this may be cathartic for person and I just smile, nod, and end the conversation politely and on social media, I actively try to stay away from consuming it. Although, at times it is difficult because the exaggerated nonsensical narrative gets the most traction and it is everywhere.

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          • There’s also just the good/bad rhetoric issue. If the only defense you have for your statement is a personal anecdote, then maybe you aren’t doing a good job defending your point? Like, it’s one thing to use yourself as an example, say “I think this character portrayed grief over the death of their parent well because that is also how I reacted to the death of my parent”. But it is something else to say, “I think this character portrayed grief wrong because my parents died and I didn’t act like that”. It’s a flawed argument, if you can’t point to anything beyond the personal. And if you keep pushing your personal narrative as justification for your opinion, the discussion isn’t going to go anywhere useful.

            Oh, I just had to think about this with this post! I can use myself as an example of someone who can’t handle social media at all, but that shouldn’t be the starting point for my thesis statement. I have to have a more general justification, I have to convince people who don’t know or care about me to agree with me, I have to use real arguments and not just personal experience.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 9:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • YES! If your only defense is a personal anecdote, then you are likely not doing a good job defending yourself. And also, why are you only using your personal anecdote to push a narrative and defend yourself or more likely attack someone. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

            And I feel very similarly to you that I am constantly talking to people that don’t know me, or care about me, or even in my case I don’t really have much of a personal anecdote on topics I am discussing. But it is still my job to discuss these topics and make people care, and take action, so that means I have to use real arguments backed up by evidence, while still being compassionate to those who do have personal anecdotes and real life experiances that have shaped their thinking.

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          • Now, imagine you are a Christian white girl trying to explain Indian religions and history to an audience that is mixed up of desis and non-desis. That’s super fun! And yet also, so important. I can’t tell someone that they are wrong about their own lived experience of a religion/culture, but I kind of have to tell them that they are wrong about the facts they are providing of their religion/culture. And I really wish I wasn’t the one doing this but there’s no one else around, so here I am correcting people about their own country. Blech!

            On the other hand, I could so easily have just started this blog on a lie about my background, or total anonymity about it, but that would also be wrong and mean my knowledge and opinions can’t stand on their own without the lie. It’s really hard!

            If DCIB disappears some day, and a new very similar blog appears that claims to be run by a 50 year old Brahmin Hindu woman from Bombaywho is close personal friends with SRK, you have permission to call me out for being fake.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 10:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • HA! I will call you out, although, I still have hope that you and SRK will be friends one day.

            And I think what you have done here is incredibly challanging and I love how much thought you have put into your posts and your comments. But then again, this is also why I love engaging on this blog. I trust the content, I trust the blogger, and I know the discussion will be fun and educational and interesting but never toxic.

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  6. Such an interesting post. I can say that personally, I live in a dichotomy. I have a massive fear/apprehension of social media (mostly Facebook/Instagram). I will generally only post pictures. I will very rarely post something serious or controversial, and if I do, I generally follow the Deepika principle. It is VERY carefully worded and if someone wants to interact with me, I will interact with them in person or over the phone but refuse to get into a war of words on Facebook. Twitter is just something I don’t use. It confuses me and I just don’t understand how it leads to anything productive. Just the thought of a shouting match on social media makes me really anxious and shaky.

    And yet, at work, I am constantly discussing very sensitive and controversial topics with a very diverse audience. And I have no fear of putting myself out there on these topics. I use the same principle I use for social media, in that I think through very carefully who my audience is, my choice of words and nomenclature, and what I am trying to accomplish. I customize and try to stay away from tangential topics that will be unproductive to or derail the overall discussion but I don’t have a fear of discussing controversial topics with people in person or even putting my name on a controversial article or publication.

    I also don’t mind having a respectful disagreement on a blog like yours that is very carefully cultivated but outside of that, the general social media just overwhelms me with its negativity and I have to actively stay away from it for my mental health.

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    • Huh. Your comment, and the others, are having an unintended effect of making me re-examine my own purposes in blogging. I am frustrated by how small my base continues to be, and by how hard it is to reach people. I blamed myself for being so bad at social media, for not reaching everyone I could, and everyone who would enjoy my writing, just because I don’t know how to use those things. But you and Eva and some others are talking about how you absolutely cannot handle social media. And you are some of my most faithful and devoted readers! So maybe it’s not that I have an audience out there that doesn’t know me because I’m not on social media, maybe my audience is the other people who aren’t on social media either. Does that make sense? I’m not losing people to more active social media users, or leaving people behind who don’t know about me, I am creating a refuge for fellow non-social media types. This blog might not even appeal to people who enjoy a more active online life.

      I very much look forward to more research on who is on social media and why. I know there are already a lot of studies and mental health training around “social media anxiety”, meaning FOMO and folks who drive their low self-esteem by going online and stuff like that. But what about people like you and me and Eva and others who get physically shaky and upset just by going to those places? It’s not FOMO, and it’s not social media addiction, it’s something else entirely. I want it to be recognized because I feel like the world is increasingly not accommodating to folks like us. I have a hard time staying in touch with friends, or learning about what’s happening at my church, or all kinds of basic life things, just because turning on Facebook is terrifying for me. You know? I want the world to be more of a “if you are on twitter, you can keep up to date with my tour schedule here, but if you have social media anxiety, you can sign up for a daily email blast instead” kind of place. Instead of a “if you are not on twitter/facebook, you don’t exist” kind of place.

      Our jobs are very different, but now that I think about it, I am similarly confident in the workplace in a way I wouldn’t be online. I do customer support, and I am top dog, which means when someone is really REALLY angry, they get transferred to me. It doesn’t rattle me, I don’t get scared, I can sooth them and make them happier and so on. You would think someone actually yelling in my ear would be scarier than someone yelling on an online message board, and yet it isn’t.

      On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 8:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I love moderating, it is my favorite thing. But maybe that is because I am only dealing with The Best People right now? I just assumed that if my comment section was bigger, it would be more totally super awesome smart sensitive thoughtful people and I would be swimming in fun funny loving comments. But perhaps I have already gathered all the smart funny sensitive thoughtful people of The Internet to me, and there is no one else out there worth talking to?

          I honestly have only had to block two users in 5 years, otherwise “moderating” is just having conversations with lovely folks.

          On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 9:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I always thought so! In Margaret Head World, everyone is kind and honest and decent and just wants to do the right thing and help people. Certainly that’s how most people I meet in real life are! Which is possibly because I am an adorable smile-y white girl, but I like to think it is just because that’s how people are. Everyone is just so nice.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 10:28 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I have struggled with something similar, in that my husband used to (and still does at times) encourage me to use social media to reach a wider audiance, engage more with reporters, basically use social media as platform to push our my research on topics that are very misunderstood and heavily stigmatzed and often spoken about based on emtotion and lack of understanding instead of sound research because he knows how much I believe in what I do and feels like there is so much false narrative out there that I should be doing more to “promote” my stuff but I cannot.

        First, I used to think it is just because I am bad at social media. Technically, I have colleagues that can handle my work social media account, yet, cultivating content for it, vetting where it is coming from, making sure it is accurate all just takes time and effort that I don’t have even if someone else can technially do all the posting and engaging.

        But then, I realized that it is beyond that. Yes, I am bad at social media. But I am able to make a bigger difference in-person or through my writing because I am mostly absent on social media. I can engage with groups of people whose thinking is completely adverse to mine, and still move the needle just a little bit because they don’t come to me with a strong preconcieved perception of me based on my social media interactions. And isn’t that better than having a huge social media following but never actually making a difference?

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        • Huh. I like your conclusion. Obviously I’m not meeting people in person, or rather, if I am it is purely social (I met you, after all :)). But I do think the discussions we have here can slightly change the way people think. At least, I hope so. Maybe not so much changing opinions, as providing additional information and world views that can slot in and change your personal conclusions. I could not possibly condense, for example, this whole post here into something on social media. If I tried, it would probably turn people off, make them become defensive and shut down. But the few people who actually are reading this whole long post get to have a complicated big thought presented to them to do what they want with. Heck, if I was better at social media and the tweet announcing this post was all clickbaity, people would have come through with an agenda in mind. Making it neutral and dull means 90% of people don’t even care enough to click through, but at least the 10% who do are coming with no preconceived notion of what the post will be about and open to learning something new.

          Now that I think about it, the tweet/posts that have gotten me the most traction were ones where the social media posting of the title was totally misunderstood. For instance, I did a post on “Top ten ugly crying movies”, meaning movies that made me ugly cry, and it went out on twitter with that title and an image of Madhavan from one of the films. Big upset from Maddy fans thinking I was making fun of him for being an ugly cryer. Which wasn’t the topic of the post at all and that whole thing was pointless. Would have been better if no one noticed the tweet besides my existing followers.

          On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 10:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Silly silly people! Don’t you know how much Margaret loves Maddy. Angie would figuratively “disown her” if she said anything mean about Maddy. But yes, I get your point. And as usual, I am so thankful for this blog where we can discuss cutest butt photos and also have discussions on topics like this and also learn about Mother Jones!

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          • SPOILER: I’m working on a “hot guys reading” TGIF post right now.

            On Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 10:38 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I get your frustration, Margaret. You’re putting a lot of thought into many of those posts, so you want them to have an effect. And they do: I find the discussions on this blog deeply intellectually stimulating. But it does mean that your readers have to think for themselves before engaging. People need to have the time to do that, or at least need to take that time by not engaging in ten quick online shouting sessions instead. I guess that kind of preselects your audience. (In addition to the general topic, the language and everything else you’ve discussed elsewhere)

            And I for one am happy about that. Then you just lead by example with what level of personal anecdotes you are looking for and how adorable you expect people to be, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It makes for possibly the safest-feeling place I have encountered on the internet, and concerning the topic of this post, one where I feel pretty justified in believing people’s stories. Let’s just ignore the rest of the internet.

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      • I think your base is small because you don’t cater to what’s currently popular in BW stan culture. This blog doesn’t really indulge in gossip which is what attracts most female fans. And it doesn’t do a lot of box office discussions which is what attracts male fans. Your reviews are also generally good-natured and not full of scorn even if you dislike a movie.

        Today, it’s the snarky and rude reviews that attract attention. People specifically go looking for that and I’m not claiming to be above it either. I’ve occasionally looked up reviews of movies like Baaghi 3 which I have no interest in just because I already knew there would be some hilarious reviews out there for a bad movie like that. People like Suchitra Tyagi basically write reviews starting out with the intent to be mean. She’s incredibly popular but her reviews are so dense. She recently did a review of Dil Se and called it bad because of woke culture and lack of consent shown by the male character. I mean, you have to completely miss the point of the movie to come up with something like that. But people applaud it because they just want to hear negative things because they find it entertaining.

        Your blog operates outside of those parameters so it won’t get the typical fans. If you wanted to experiment, just put up a few gossip articles and write something mean and you will see lots of new comments and posters show up.

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        • You are right, of course. I have seen that on the few posts I do that tend towards gossip and meanness, my views explode. But I don’t like it, it’s not me, and more than that, writing towards the views is just plain immoral. If that’s what people want, for me to lie just to be entertaining, than I don’t think I can do that.

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  7. The fact that Genevieve is my real name is in an indication of where I stand on this issue. But one of the issues you’ve discussed in the comments is sticking with me, that your readers aren’t as active on social media. I am very active on facebook, but I only friend my friends and community. And in my small town, facebook has become the official news source. If you want the county’s lasted COVID count, you check facebook, the Sheriff, Police or some other official organization you’ve liked will have posted it. I will post controversial things on facebook, but over the last three years I’ve become more careful in how I phrase it. But, I haven’t said anything on facebook about my father-in-law’s stroke because it is not my place to inform his friends. Normally I would share such a huge thing that affects the daily life of my family. But I did share that information here, when it was relevant because I didn’t know if I would be able to attend a watch-along or not. So even though I use my real name, there are things I will share with your community that I won’t with the community I see more often in daily life.

    And on another note, during these COVID times I’ve made it a personal mission to dismantle the them vs. us mindset of current American politics. This means I comment on the facebook posts of political leaders. I’ve learned that the more honest and heartfelt and vulnerable I am the more willing those who disagree with me will be to engage with me. And I’ve also noticed that people are not as mean as they were a year ago. There still is name calling, but fewer people are doing it, and they are being called out for it more. The lure of yelling at each other seems to be fading, at least a little bit.

    I am not on Twitter, at all. And I have, for a long time, felt that it is a bubble with a disproportionate effect on the news cycle. Nor am I on Instagram, though if I still managed a bookstore I would have to be, on both…

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    • I think you are using social media in the best way. I wish I could use it like that, I would like to be able to stay in touch with friends through Facebook, or follow certain specific institutions, or even start useful conversations with people who might disagree with me. And yet, I just find it overwhelming, as soon as I open it, it is just too much.

      You know, now that I think about it, more people than I would expect use their real names here at DCIB. Including me, I originally tried to avoid using my real name, and then thought “why? what am I afraid of?” and changed. Not that everyone should use their real name, some of the commentators here have sensitive jobs and other reasons they need anonymity. Others are in between, they use a screen name but share enough of their life that it would be easy for anyone to find them, the screen name starts to feel less like a mask and more like a nickname. I guess the biggest thing is how many of them I know by the real name. For my cards that I mail out, I contact folks asking for name and address. And I’ve only had one person turn me down, isn’t that amazing? We think of the internet as this sea of anonymous mystery folks, but in some places (like here) the line between your fake internet persona and real life person is very small.

      Agree about twitter. I don’t understand how “twitter trends” have become a news item? And I also don’t believe in them because literally no one I know uses twitter heavily. While many people I know use Facebook to some degree. I think social media has an impact, but I think using twitter to trace that impact is pure laziness, it’s only because it is the most obvious source, not at all because it is the most representative.

      On Sat, Aug 8, 2020 at 11:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I’m on Twitter, but primarily for sports. College football has plenty of politics and I don’t need the real stuff. That’s why I am never on FB anymore. People (on both sides) say *the most ridiculous things.* I cannot take it anymore. I had to mute my mom. She is old-school biased. I know why, I get that she’s old, I know that her perspective is different than mine. But it’s still annoying.
      It’s best to love one another for intellect and common interests and leave things we disagree about packed up. If we agree on 99.9% of things that actually delineate us as people, I am not going to let the .1% we disagree on spoil the rest of the relationship. I know my perspectives on things isn’t always universally popular (although, I LOVE discussing/talking things out with people who disagree with me) but does that make everything about me repugnant?

      I do think the cancel culture has gotten out of control.
      You were stupid 20 years ago? Fabulous. Are you still stupid now, or have you fixed it?
      Are you really a mean person to underlings because you’re evil, or is there a perspective I have not seen?
      Do you hate puppies, babies, and kittens? Well then, no, we cannot be friends. Otherwise … bring it!

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  8. This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Like you Margaret, I have a veryyyy low threshold for online abuse. (Perhaps it’s because of that extra-sensory perception thing?)
    Anyhow, back in 2002, my 3 year-old got Type 1 diabetes. Now, this is pre-social media, so after discovering a website for parents to learn and discuss, I joined an e-mail group/list (remember those?). All of a sudden I was “talking” with/to lots of people I had never met in person. Because we were all discussing such an important topic – how to keep our kids alive – many of us became very close, very quickly. When traveling around the country on vacations and such, we still look each other up to meet in person. I consider people I’ve never met face to face as deep, personal friends. We once got together to help a fellow diabetes mom from Finland when her daughter was diagnosed with a heart condition. She needed specialized heart surgery available only in the US. My husband’s law firm donated airline miles for the trip, and others on the list helped financially and housed them for weeks during treatment. I have still never met this woman in person, but when her son with diabetes unexpectedly died one night, half a world away in Finland, it was as if my own nephew had passed. I have sent $6000 insulin pumps we were not using anymore to people in Canada, Brazil, and Mexico. It seems crazy – and so long ago. The world has changed so much since then! (Also, my kid was supposed to be cured by now. They said 5-10 years. Sigh …)

    The flip side of all of that is that we occasionally had “parents” of T1 kids show up in our e-mails who were clearly fake. I remember trying to wrap my head around that. Why the HELL would someone want to pretend their kid was ill? (And why did they think they were going to get any particular sympathy from a bunch of frazzled, sleep deprived people dealing with diabetic kids??) When the list was replaced with a board or forum format, I had to get off. E-mails required a certain level of commitment not required on the forum. And damn, that whole setup with avatars and “signatures” and “member since” crap seemed to make people less caring, more condescending, more judgmental and overall less helpful.

    Then, a few years ago, I fell ill with a bunch of weird symptoms and ailments. FOR REAL, if I were a doctor – or any sane human for that matter – I would think I was faking it. Total hypochondriac. (I am still hoping I’m a hypochondriac.)
    That is how I recently discovered the world of Munchausen by Internet. It’s not only a real diagnosis, there are ENTIRE INTERNET SITES dedicated to finding, following, and outing these people. (Btw, they are referred to as Munchies. Truly.) What the actual hell?? People *make a living* posting YouTube videos about their feeding tubes and trips to the hospital. They flaunt their wheelchairs and other expensive medical equipment while their long-suffering partner – usually a guy – obligingly films, drives them to the ER, and generally affirms the verity of everything said. People send money and gifts to these people. They sell MERCH.
    I swear, I have no idea why, but I am still shocked and horrified that humanity has gotten to this place. Thank god for old Bollywood. Thank god for SRK and Kajol and DDLJ and cheesy songs and Dhoom. (Watching that right now. Is Abihishek wearing Transition lenses???) ‘Cause, aside from sites like this and pictures of puppies and babies, the internet sucks.
    I am no longer surprised that someone would fake a bunch of crap to promote themselves and make money. I am very careful where I send donations. Komen was the first off my list. JDRF was next, for a variety of reasons.
    Now, all that being said, I still suppose that crazy people saying crazy things for crazy reasons is preferable to what the Chinese government does to their citizens’ ability to speak freely.
    … I think.

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    • I have a friend whose little girl has Type 1 diabetes, and she also found this amazing community online. There is so much equipment involved with it, a lot of the information shared was how to hack the equipment and make it work better. Very useful for the people dealing with the situation but, as you say, how could this be interesting to an outsider? And on the other hand, how could an outsider think they could possibly “pass”? Unless you actually are a doctor working with diabetic kids, I can’t think of a way you could achieve the level of knowledge about symptoms and treatments and technology that a real Mom would have. It would be like showing up on a mechanics’ message board and pretending you knew how to work on cars.

      The article I read about the fake academic briefly mentioned Internet Munchausan in terms of her faking COVID at the end of her scam. But I feel like we maybe need to think about expanding the terminology? That same high of getting sympathy and attention online can come from things beyond just playing physically ill. This woman started out talking about being a victim of racism and gender bias and things, and seemed to get a similar sympathy and attention high to what she would have gotten from playing physically ill. I am sure there are fake blogs out there about people who claim to be dealing with an abusive husband, or a terrible work situation, or are whatever else. In “real life” you couldn’t get away with it, and the complications would be too much, but online it is so easy.

      On Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 9:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Let your friend know, she’s got another D mom out there with way too much experience if she ever needs to talk. I love how diabetics go beyond the “Jeep wave” to full-out lost-relative welcome when they pass one another. Wheelchair users are like that too. (And, children who want to know why I’m at their level and riding a stroller, too.)
        Seriously, though. You want to enter the Twilight Zone, look into the “Munchie” community. It’s a rabbit hole.

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