Ask-mefi- what's going on, or am I the crazy one? July 26, 2010 3:10 PM   Subscribe

How many posts on askmefi are fake?

I've noticed over the past couple of weeks a couple of posts that are just too weird/perfect in their own strangeness that I had a hard time believing they weren't created by someone. Is this a real phenomenon on askmefi, or are these real people asking real questions?

Here are 2 examples.

Each seems to be the perfect storm.

Disclaimer: I am not questioning the severity of these issues or passing any sort of judgement, it's just got me wondering if people sit around and think up crazy questions to ask on metafilter. If so, what's the purpose. Am I thinking about this way too hard?
posted by TheBones to MetaFilter-Related at 3:10 PM (191 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I am assuming they are real. We may think they are not real because we may have very little experience with people who are shut-ins of various stripes. The times we've known that someone was asking a question that was made up, it was a little more obvious.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


I was going to post this up on ask-mefi, but I thought it would most likely be removed because it is more of a discussion topic than an answerable question.
posted by TheBones at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2010


Something close to zero.
posted by Pants! at 3:13 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have any evidence for this, but it's probably the case that a lot of Ask Metafilter posts are made up, exaggerated, or contrived, especially anonymous ones. It doesn't really affect functionality of the site at all to have fictional questions, as long as the advice is real.
posted by Electrius at 3:14 PM on July 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


A lot of questions make me think someone wants to research or work out material for a novel or screenplay. That one about the woman who thought her husband was trying to kill her (can't find the post) was said to be lifted straight off the pages of somebody's novel. Good times.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with you electrius. The community isn't really compromised, though I would consider it watered down and less effective for the people with "real" questions a bit.

The ____ of Justice, I didn't think about that. I always see pre-cursors to this of "I have a question for a novel I'm writing" or something to that effect.
posted by TheBones at 3:17 PM on July 26, 2010


Thanks for weighing in Jessamyn, it's good to hear a mod's perspective, especially since you see EVERY SINGLE POST on this site.
posted by TheBones at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2010


How could this question possibly be answered? It's not like there's a ticky box on the submission form for "Fake."
posted by stoneweaver at 3:20 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The world is a strange and complicated place full of people who, one to another, have very different perspectives, life experiences, and ways of discussing or asking about their lives.

There is always the possibility that a question has been embellished or outright invented, but if a question isn't otherwise a problem our take is to view it as legitimate and answer (or don't) in good faith and leave it at that. If you've got a specific reason to think a question might be not on the up-and-up, it's totally fine to drop us a note via the contact form and let us know what's up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this question is a fake question.
posted by davejay at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


The world is a really, really, really, really big place, and a lot of really, really, really, really weird shit goes on in it. A lot of that stuff is awesome, but a lot of it is really awful too. And strange. So many things are so strange that strange is much more normal than normal.
posted by TomMelee at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


Cortex, thanks for the response. No, no suspicions, just curious as I'm relatively new to metafilter and wasn't sure if this was a real phenomenon, or if I was just making stuff up in my head.
posted by TheBones at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2010


You know, if the question is plausible enough, it doesn't really bother me if it is fake. I mean, AskMe has high search ranking. Maybe the question could help somebody.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


While I bet AskMe gets pranked on occasion, picking on those two examples seems pretty unkind.

Some folks have a lot of challenges. I really respect the courage that it takes to ask for help in scenarios like these.

I would have liked to see more specific reasons for suspicion before adding to these folks' burdens by publicly questioning their veracity.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:27 PM on July 26, 2010 [46 favorites]


I always assumed they were all fake, created in content farms.
posted by found missing at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


That's what I find so great about MetaFilter! I've learned more about the many, many ways people live, struggle and succeed than I ever thought possible.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have to admit, I felt a little suspicious about the home-schooled agoraphobe. Considering the depth of their fear, I wondered how they managed to do stuff like get groceries, but decided not to make any sort of comment about it, but only bring up my doubts since you mentioned it.
posted by crunchland at 3:31 PM on July 26, 2010


I don't find those questions implausible at all, but that's because I was a shut in for the majority of my life so I'm familiar with what that's like. People come from all different walks of like, soyeah.
posted by biochemist at 3:32 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


meant to say life.
posted by biochemist at 3:32 PM on July 26, 2010


I see two things that make real questions look fake.

One is that with a lot of the anonymous questions, someone has gone to so much trouble to disguise the situation in case the spouse, coworkers, parents, whatever are watching they've reduced the situation to the kind of formulaic slush pile stuff that every editor is trying to get off his desk as fast as humanly possible.

The other is a case of the jaded observer. If you had an encyclopedic knowledge of Dilbert cartoons you could probably assign one to every AskMe about someone's crappy job. After a while you'd be hard pressed to believe that someone out there wasn't posting an AskMe from the PoV of one of the Dilbert characters every time they had a free AskMe question. In fact, most of these questions are probably real, it's just that Scott Adams gets his material by turning real life to 11 and every insane situation he makes light of has happend a dozen times today.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:33 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


There is every chance that an anonymous (or even onymous?) question could have lots of additional fluff and made up stuff in it. Uncharitably, it can look like attention seeking or stunt posting - especially when some of the content is hard for some to believe (being far out of their experience level). Charitably, it could be that the poster is inventing extra detail and issues around the main crux of the issue they want answering as a means of obfuscating their identity further; adding several additional layers that they don't suffer (especially additional stuff that would be blindingly obvious to anyone that knew them) would help deniability should anyone find some of the information resonates with someone that may know who it is. Or, maybe the poster is deluded/mistaken/exaggerating elements that are unrelated but seem linked in their minds.

So it's quite possible that some of the made up stuff (assuming some of it is) may be there with the best of intentions on the poster's part. They may view the distraction of posters with the fake stuff may be outweighed by the smokescreen they feel comfortable with, and the more dramatic the question, perhaps the more chance people will comment and they can cherry pick the stuff they need.

I think there are a lot of fabricated elements in questions (not by any means a majority, but some 'creative framing' perhaps) but as long as - as has been noted - the advice is true and sound it almost doesn't matter. Hypothetical questions with no truth at all in them would even be helpful to later readers, although surely that is not what Askme is for.
posted by Brockles at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This askme has some pretty amazing responses. I re-read it periodically, since it helps me re-calibrate my all-walks-of-life meter.
posted by rtha at 3:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


400+ years ago, even before there was 4chan, people noticed how much stranger reality is than they'd first thought:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Even if it sounds fake, most relationship or human interaction questions get the benefit of my doubt. Esp. new users. It's usually not in someone's interest to spend $5 to spin a small web of deceit. The only ones I'm sure are fake are the ones with a possible profit motive, and they're soon removed.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have posted some anonymous questions that may have seemed unrealistic. I assure you that you have no way of knowing any other person's complete set of personal life circumstances that has coagulated to induce the problem they are asking us about.

I try my best to assume that people are being sincere in their need for help, because doing otherwise would hinder my ability to give my best advice. People need things. A lot of things. And we can go through life assuming the worst of them, and feel smug that we have never been tricked, or we can go through life helping people, and know that while sometimes people may not have been for real, we have done some real good to those who were in true need.
posted by Night_owl at 3:41 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've generally assumed that the really really strange ones are for story ideas, and the posters decide to write it from the point of view of the character rather than the writer. It can be worth doing to get a feel for whether the character is realistically believable.

On the other hand, I know some pretty strange people, and can only assume there are more extreme cases out there, roaming the countryside with a laptop and a paypal account.
posted by mannequito at 3:45 PM on July 26, 2010


Those types of questions I don't necessarily get 'fake' vibes from simply because abuse and/or social isolation are, sadly, not that uncommon. There are nearly as many screwed up ways to live as their are happy ways. I do tend to think that events which are related in relationshipfilter/personal disagreement questions are often...adjusted...to make the OP sound as sympathetic as possible. Possibly without the OP being fully conscious of that fact.
posted by frobozz at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I treat all AskMes as fake until proven otherwise.
posted by Eideteker at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2010


What an odd thing to say.
posted by found missing at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't say that some are made-up. Rather, I think a great many are written in such a way as to predispose and/or limit the responses.

In other words, these aren't questions so much as cries for attention. They're asking for the hivemind to tell them what they want to hear.

In the two provided examples ... if someone put a gun to my head and said, "Try to answer these," I wouldn't even know where to start, much less know an "answer."

These questions are the reason that professional psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and pharmacists exist.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:03 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


My situation was nowhere near as bad as these two askers, but having had severe agoraphobia, I can easily imagine being shut in for months at a time. At certain points in my life that would have seemed preferable to interacting with the outside world. You can easily verify from my history that I am a real person. So I have no doubt that these questions are most likely real.
posted by desjardins at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Cool papa bell, that's an interesting point. Not so much questions as cries for attention.
posted by TheBones at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2010


Kid Charlemagne brings up a great point.

Details are important for verisimilitude in fiction, and their presence is necessary for the generation of a nuanced and helpful answer to an Ask Metafilter question. Their absence doesn't mean someone is pranking, but it sure doesn't help make their situation realistic, or their question readable.

The recent fashion of clumsily constructing the question so as to obscure the genders of the people involved (followed by helpful answerers assuming the default, and other helpful answerers whacking them over the head for heteronormative thought) or to refer ambiguously to something as a "community" instead of specifying "Swarthmore" or "local running scene" or "amateur theatre" or "private flying club" rings the forfuckssake bell for me. If people want useful answers from others who may have experienced the same problems, they should include some context.

Really, if people are going to genericize their questions to the point where they sound false, they could just use this for a generic answer:

- be nice to others
- check Etsy
- eat it, it's still good
- pack a pair of black pants
- maybe he's not gay
- apply to both, and take the one you want
- DTMFA
- DSMFA (hey, it's easier to type than "get therapy" for the thousandth time)
- move out and get your own place
- put him to sleep before he loses the joy of life
- talk to her teacher; maybe she doesn't do it at school
- try this garbanzo salad
- the red one.
posted by Sallyfur at 4:09 PM on July 26, 2010 [29 favorites]


- when's the last time someone checked your thyroid/ vitamin D levels/ hemoglobin A1c.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:13 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I kind of assume anything by anonymous is fake. I won't answer those questions anymore. I hate anonymous questions that don't need to be. Sure, I understand that one person's need for anonymity is another's person's freak flag flown high, but more often than not no one cares! Drives me nuts when you see a question like, "I eggs. Can you suggest something else I might like?" Anonymous.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good eggsample.
posted by gman at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do spelling and grammar count?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2010


4
posted by ob at 4:18 PM on July 26, 2010


I started counting on June 10, 2006 and I've found three so far. I examine each question very carefully, creating pie charts and graphs and even look for hidden anagrams. It is very time consuming as I'm sure you can imagine but also tremendously rewarding, as I'm sure you can also imagine. If anyone would like to help by starting on June 9, 2006 and working back through the archives, please send your cv to me via email.

When the project is finished I'm going to start counting fake MeTa comments, starting at July 26, 2010 at 7:18pm est and working my way back to day one.
posted by dobbs at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sallyfur FTW- That was AWESOME!!! Alot of the answers to "what should I do," questions now a days do fall into one of those categories.

Cjorgensen- I agree and it definitely rubs me the wrong way to see these, but that is a huge digression.
posted by TheBones at 4:20 PM on July 26, 2010


There was the whole sansgras affair, in which other possibly fake situations were discussed (warning, that longboat has 3467 comments).
posted by adamrice at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2010


Those don't seem too far-fetched to me. But I've traveled a lot, lived in big cities, and have an unstoppable curiosity about other people's lives.

They seem really heartbreaking and I wish we could send someone to help those folks immediately. Like a MeFi Fairy Guardian, dispatched daily on missions of mercy and retribution. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
posted by batmonkey at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: I was just making stuff up in my head.
posted by hippybear at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2010


- eat it, it's still good

I will always be in this camp.
posted by Max Power at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2010


All of them. All the posts on the blue and the grey, too. We thought you knew.
posted by jonmc at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"...that is a huge digression."

Welcome to metatalk. Or my world. Whichever you prefer.

To address your question once more, in the end it doesn't exactly matter in any are fake in the end. If they survive jessamyn modding it means they meet all the other criteria for askme, so in the end it's a "valid" question even if the 40 year old man with sexual dysfunction end up being a 14 year girl from Wisconsin.

If someone got some laughs by asking "How do I keep it hard?" and someone googling this issue finds the question, the question isn't going to matter nearly as much as the answers.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:29 PM on July 26, 2010


As cortex says, "The world is a strange and complicated place full of people who, one to another, have very different perspectives, life experiences, and ways of discussing or asking about their lives."

I have been reading the site for years and have seen maybe two or three I thought might be completely fake. It's a weird syndrome: the claiming people asking about serious problems can't possible be sincere, the scorn for "relationshipfilter" - and then the use of either or both as an excuse for withholding normal human sympathy. Kind of a "he'll just spend it on booze anyway" for the internet.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:29 PM on July 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


I am not questioning the severity of these issues or passing any sort of judgement

Really? Because that's pretty much exactly what you're doing when you start a MetaTalk thread to discuss if the questions were written by real people. Both struck me as absolutely believable.
posted by kate blank at 4:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fine, you guys got me. My Excel question was fake. Sorry folks.
posted by mullacc at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many posts on askmefi are fake?

43.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:36 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Damn you excel- I've asked 3 or 4 myself. Damn you microsoft.
posted by TheBones at 4:41 PM on July 26, 2010


I've seen some AskMes I was absolutely sure were fake that no one else questioned, and vice versa.

For instance, I found the home-schooled, agoraphobic question you refer to extremely unlikely as well. For me, it was a combination of the *carefulness* of the question-- preemptively eliminating lots of viable solutions, precisely wording the query, with everything grammatically correct--along with the fact that some vitally important information comes nearly at the end, like the injury to the sibling. That seemed as if the poser thought, "Hmm, haven't covered all the bases, better add this in to make the answers better."

And then just add in my own natural skepticism that someone would lurk enough to understand the site as well as the poster apparently does, pony up the $5 and wait out the week (at least) before asking the question when the need for assistance seems so imperative and immediate. Especially since just googling family services in the area would have been easier....

Well, anyway, it rang my bells, too.

So I didn't answer in the thread, because I didn't have anything helpful to say. And also because, with all of my doubts, I still don't understand why someone would take the trouble to "game" the site in that way. And ALSO because if they were gaming the site, I'd just be feeding the troll.

But I also think that some questions that seem unlikely are just slightly embellished, either to better conceal the poster's identity or out of embarrassment.
posted by misha at 4:41 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


eat it, it's still good

I will always be in this camp.

I live in the "Why take chances? Food poisoning is no fun. Throw it away and order pizza" camp.

Maybe each side should pick a champion and they could fight to the death, and that would settle this question once and for all.
posted by not that girl at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am not questioning the severity of these issues or passing any sort of judgement

Really? Because that's pretty much exactly what you're doing when you start a MetaTalk thread to discuss if the questions were written by real people. Both struck me as absolutely believable.


Oh, and kate_blank, I really don't think that's fair. I'm sure you've questioned some AskMes as well? It's not the same as saying, "That's a bad question and you are bad for asking it."

At least not to me. Because if someone asks a fake question, and then maybe another person benefits from the answers given, it's still all good.
posted by misha at 4:49 PM on July 26, 2010


Wait, so...you mean we aren't supposed to be asking fake questions?
posted by Ouisch at 4:52 PM on July 26, 2010


Misha, that is EXACTLY what I'm feeling, and am asking about.

Some questions I come across and think, this is way too precisely ordered and worded. It raises an alarm in my brain, hence the question here, not that I'm looking for an answer, just confirmation that I'm not completely losing/already lost it.
posted by TheBones at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2010


A lot of questions make me think someone wants to research or work out material for a novel or screenplay. That one about the woman who thought her husband was trying to kill her (can't find the post) was said to be lifted straight off the pages of somebody's novel. Good times.

Is my husband trying to kill me?

And yeah, it was from a novel, according to dersins.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2010


Maybe each side should pick a champion and they could fight to the death, and that would settle this question once and for all.

The Eat It side would have to go through the entire contents of a random college student's fridge.

The Don't Eat It side would have to eat delivery pizzas, one after another, as fast as they were delivered.

Whoever taps out or expires first loses. Or wins. I'm not really sure how to adjudicate this sort of event.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Really, if people are going to genericize their questions to the point where they sound false, they could just use this for a generic answer:

[...]

- DTMFA
- DSMFA (hey, it's easier to type than "get therapy" for the thousandth time)

[...]


Yes, but you forgot one crucial situation : when a therapist is sleeping with a client, but the client becomes obsessive and starts calling the therapist in the middle of the night.

The ever-important DTTFA.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2010


Whenever I see someone assuming a lot of things other people say are made up, I assume that person lies a lot.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on July 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


And yeah, it was from a novel, according to dersins.

Honestly, it's more of an attractive theory than a clearcut explanation of the question. And it is attractive as an explanation, because the alternative is a lot crappier—not for the unlikely case that the asker's husband was actually a murderer, but for the likely one that this was someone with an untreated mental illness. It wasn't a situation we liked at all in any case, and I wish I could believe that it was just a prank because it'd sit a lot easier with me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2010


It's been five years, but this singed my (and mathowie's!) feathers pretty bad. It's always in the back of my mind when something outlandish comes along now, sadly.
posted by Gator at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or what prefpara said here:
Sometimes, people's lives can be so atypically terrible that when they ask for help, members of this community conclude that they are lying. In the instance I linked to, there was a girl asking for help. She seemed to have few resources in the real world. People jumped all over her and demanded that she prove she was real and meet someone and practically give DNA samples. Guess what? She doesn't post here anymore. I hope she found other means of help, because she seemed to be in an extremely difficult situation.

Please, just remember that there are real people with real feelings behind these posts. It's possible that the question under discussion here is a scam, in which case perhaps people in similar straits might one day be helped by good answers to it, but it's also possible that this is a genuine question from a person who appears to be in crisis.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


No one, ever, is fake on the internet. Whatever anyone says they are, is what they are because it is what they wish to be, and that is a kind of reality. There is nothing to be gained by lying about what you want to seem to be - as long as you keep it on the screen.

In RL this is not so. What one is is what one is force into being by appearance, by fortune, by life, and there is much to be gained by a false presentation. But because you are so influenced by the unchosen facts when you deal with someone your are very lemited in you ability to ever see the Real person you are dealing with; it isn't the other way around.

(of course, when RL and internet meet, when a worm hole opens between these diffferent kinds of reality, perhaps there may be a clash, but that is a choice by both parties, isn't it? No one ever makes you let that happen.)

When someone says, "I hurt!", on the internets or in real life, I think it is always true, because I've never met anyone about whom it was nnot (somehow) true.
posted by Some1 at 5:03 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Aren't they all?
posted by karminai at 5:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's no reason to think that AskMetaFilter members are any different from, you know, people in real life (albeit probably more x, y and nerdy). Do people lie or embellish? Definitely. How do I know? Because I have embellished or lied in Ask responses in the past - usually to paper over an unimportant detail that I don't want on the internet, or would otherwise require a ten line footnote to explain - although once or twice I have talked about things in the first person, when the situation was happening to my brother or a friend. I have also embellished an Ask question because I wanted to see the full range of possible solutions (particularly the most extreme) and then pick the best from there. I have a question drafted (that I won't be asking now, obviously) where the core of the situation is real, but I've fabricated a number of scenarios because I want to see what people think in faux-hindsight, if that makes sense. People tend to give different advice to people about how they should recover from something they're planning, than about how they should recover from something that's already happened.

I'm firmly in the 'as long as the advice is real' camp, but, if you do lie or embellish, you take your chances re: people trusting you, community backlash when someone digs a little deeper, etc.


It's usually not in someone's interest to spend $5 to spin a small web of deceit.

That's not true at all. However, if it is true, you underestimate the tendency of people to not act in their own interest.
posted by doublehappy at 5:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's no reason to think that AskMetaFilter members are any different from, you know, people in real life (albeit probably more x, y and nerdy).

On preview, Some1 just convinced me otherwise.
posted by doublehappy at 5:10 PM on July 26, 2010

they could just use this for a generic answer
[coughs into the microphone]

See A Therapist
By Fiasco da Gama 2010

See A Therapist!
Dump his cheating arse
Worry about yourself
Protect your own ego
You can survive without him
What were you thinking
What what what were you thinking?

See a therapist
Don't talk to the police
Except if you're being stalked on facebook
Except if there's garbage on your lawn
Or if it's a question of private property
The cops never help except when they do

See a therapist
But talk to your partner about it, boyo.
If you're a bloke, wank less.
If you're a girl, wank more.
Drink less,
Make time,
Use lube,
Be honest,
Practice,
Make a time and motion study with appropriate covariables
Science works, bitches.

See a therapist
Smoke better dope
Drink less whiskey
Don't skip meds
You have a problem
Do vigorous exercise
One day at a time
Go to meetings
Well, except for meetups
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:11 PM on July 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


Yeah, we've all been there, not being suspicious enough. I had answered this AskMe in a state of complete gullibility and was waiting for some followup from the OP. Then my laptop screen flickered and got all staticky. Video drivers, again? But no ... the static seemed to cycle through a series of images, settling on a what appeared to be an abandoned well.

A figure crawled out of the shadowy hole and came stumbling towards the screen in an unnatural fashion. A hand pressed against the screen, which distorted and melted out like something in Videodrome as I switched from thinking, "Oh, great, there's cookie issues with my login and I'm getting some awful Flash ad I never see normally because I am always logged in" to idiotically wondering if this was under warranty. The shape crawled out of the screen itself onto my bed and when I looked into its grim dead eyes I realized it was Ashton Kutcher, and he screamed "PUNK'D!" and I screamed back "You were the worst thing about The Butterfly Effect and the audience in my theater laughed when you realized you had lost your arms!" They didn't air that part on MTV, the bastards.

Because that's the price of answering a faked-up AskMe. Someone will point at you and laugh on national television, and the suburbs will echo with laughter as everyone else finds your shame and your foolish trust entertaining.

Don't do what I did, man. NOT. WORTH. IT.
posted by adipocere at 5:14 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm firmly in the 'as long as the advice is real' camp...

Well, the less truthful the question is, the less applicable the advice will tend to be to the real situation. So you can't totally separate the realness of the question from the realness of the advice it receives.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:14 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoever taps out or expires first loses.

I think you need a longer timeline. Sure, the eat it camp may live more exciting lives, but 10 years out there will be fewer of them.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:15 PM on July 26, 2010


Whenever I see someone assuming a lot of things other people say are made up, I assume that person lies a lot.

You know, you might have a point there, languagehat. I mean, I'm not a pathological liar*, but as a writer of fiction, when I see something that reads the way I might write it, I think "fiction". So maybe I am too quick to jump to that conclusion.

But, again, that's why I didn't wade into that thread.

*At least as far as you know.
posted by misha at 5:19 PM on July 26, 2010


I'm a pathological liar. Everything I say is a lie.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the carpentry and home decoration ones I reckon are made up - you're not telling me there's people in this world who actually get off their arses and make/improve things? When there's stuff to look at on TV and the Internet? Come on.
posted by Abiezer at 5:23 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


when a therapist is sleeping with a client, but the client becomes obsessive and starts calling the therapist in the middle of the night.

That's when you call your telephone company and block the client's number, and then have to listen to customer service trying to sell you other products, and you decide to change providers.

The dreaded, but sometimes necessary DAT&TMFA.
posted by Sallyfur at 5:23 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


There was the whole sansgras affair, in which other possibly fake situations were discussed (warning, that longboat has 3467 comments).
posted by adamrice


I think my brain just died. I should have heeded your warning...
posted by patheral at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2010


I've known people like that, or who used to be like that, so I find those posts very plausible.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:29 PM on July 26, 2010


Everything I say is a lie.

Don't be such a Cretan.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I agree completely with ottereroticist. Every time I see one of these threads on MeTa I totally lose my cool. The world is very big, and very strange, and the people in it do not always behave the way we expect them to, or word posts the way we imagine we would in their situation. I really don't want to get into an argument about whether these particular posts seem "fake" or not, though I will say that they strike me as absolutely plausible. What I want to say, and what I think I say whenever I see this come up, is:

the risk you're taking is that a person who is in pain and has few resources will be alienated at the moment when they finally reach out for help. To me, that is tragic. Imagine being desperate and frightened, feeling like a monster surrounded by normal happy people, perhaps being the victim of abuse, not knowing what to do or how to escape from constant shame, misery, and pain, and finally reaching out, clumsily, and the response including a thread like this.

Please remember that people in crisis do not react the way you expect them to react. This does not make them liars. When you call them liars, you are slapping them in the face during the moment when, perhaps for the first time, they have made themselves vulnerable in a very powerful way. Asking for help is not easy, especially for people who are socially isolated and do not know what is normal.

I am reminded of a time when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. A friend of my mom's had a baby. The baby got sick. The parents took the baby to the hospital, and they said to take the baby home for now but to call if the symptoms got worse. The parents stayed up with the baby during the night, and thought that the baby was worse, so they called the hospital. The doctor who answered the phone listened to their description of the baby's worsening symptoms and told them that the baby was fine and that they should not bring her. The baby seemed to get calmer and the parents fell asleep. When they woke up in the morning, their baby was dead. Two days later, my mom took me to something like a wake (I don't know what it was, people gathered) at their house. I remember that the mom, who opened the door for us, seemed totally fine and kept laughing and saying, "I keep telling everyone it's fine, we have another child. It's fine. We have another child." I was shocked and horrified because I expected her to be weeping or shaking or doing something more "typical," but that was not how her grief was manifesting at that moment. Nevertheless, despite the strangeness of her repeated assurances that everything was fine because, after all, they had another child, it was absolutely clear that she was completely lost to grief and that her bizarre behavior was a sign of the depth of her sadness, not of a lack of feeling. The reason this was so clear to me was, in large part, because I was in her presence and could see her face and hear the tone of her voice. I could also see how the people around her were reacting to her, and their behavior was in line with my understanding that she was profoundly grieving.

When people post online, we do not have the benefit of seeing their facial expressions or hearing their tone. They may sound calm when we expect from the described circumstances that they "should" sound otherwise. They may use unexpected words or give us more or less detail than we were expecting. But we readers don't know how long it took them to write their question, how difficult it was for them, what their voice would sound like if they were to read their question aloud.

I know from my own experience that when I need help, I ask for it in a way that is very ineffectual because for me, asking for help is profoundly difficult. I have to prepare myself for a long time. I rehearse what I am going to say. I do it only when in desperate need. To me, the act of asking for help is an emergency. I concentrate all my energy on that moment. And so I sound very controlled, and very calm, and for numerous reasons I usually use words that do not communicate the intensity of my need (for example, I fear that people will resent me if I "force" them to help me). So I may be lying on my kitchen floor shaking with pain and fear, but on the phone to you I will say in a controlled and measured voice, "if you're not busy, would you mind coming over?"

I'm trying to say that when someone tells you "I need help," it is not constructive to start questioning their veracity based on the way they present their request. And that it can be enormously destructive.

I know I may be overreacting because of how hard it is for me to request help. I am imagining myself reaching out to someone in a moment of desperation and being rebuffed, and it makes me very sad and very angry. I realize there may be truly fake questions, but is that small possibility worth what has actually happened, and more than once? There are in fact people who have reached out for help from this community, been called out as liars, and no longer participate. I wonder if they were able to find the help that they needed. I think it's incredibly sad that they were hurt when they came to us.

I am running out of making sense. I think threads like this do a lot of harm and no good. That's really all I've been trying to say.
posted by prefpara at 5:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [114 favorites]


truth is far stranger than fiction
posted by telstar at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guessing I'm a sucker. When I read the question ostensibly by the shut-in with the injured sibling and neglectful patents, I wanted to find them, slap their stupid parents around, and then spirit them off to a better place.

If that question was true, then it is horribly, horribly sad. The only response I could formulate was "just start walking and never stop until you are a million miles away".

So I kinda hope it IS fake, or exaggerated, or somehow enhanced to maximize sympathy, because DAMN y'all, that's a miserable situation.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:52 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, the less truthful the question is, the less applicable the advice will tend to be to the real situation. So you can't totally separate the realness of the question from the realness of the advice it receives.

I've changed my position about four times reading this thread.

Members get one question a week. The purpose of AskMetaFilter is to answer the question to the satisfaction of the asker (see a post by one of the mods some time in the recent past - in a MetaTalk thread about whether there should be community selected 'Best Answers').

On this read, it seems irrelevant whether elements of the question are false, or embellished. We can only answer the questions as they are - it's not our responsibility to ensure the questions are framed so as to get the best possible answer. Caveat inquisitor, perhaps?
posted by doublehappy at 5:55 PM on July 26, 2010


I strongly suspect this is a fake callout.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:55 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry - it's not our responsibility to it's impossible to ensure the questions...

FTFM
posted by doublehappy at 5:56 PM on July 26, 2010


Whenever I see someone assuming a lot of things other people say are made up, I assume that person lies a lot. --- or, it's conceivable that they've been lied to a lot, and have learned to be suspicious.
posted by crunchland at 5:59 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


If no part of speech can be used in place of "taters" to produce a logically coherent question...

FAKE!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:24 PM on July 26, 2010


I lean towards not so much fake as more likely poorly reported enough to make anonymously asked cry-for-help mental health questions probably a valueless proposition. People tend to be bad historians when it comes to their own mental health disorders, and fill in the blanks with information from specious sources, impose their own self-diagnosis, embellish the details of some symptoms, minimize other symptoms, etc. I see this at work constantly on initial evaluations of clients with chronic mental health histories. New clients report to us what they understand to be their treatment history, then we go through back channels in the city behavioral health department to get all the actual treatment history and the two almost never line up; in fact, the differences are usually pretty extensive and it's interesting to talk to new clients about how they came to their own understanding of what their disorder and treatment history is. I take most declarations of diagnosis in anonymous questions with a grain of salt. You have no idea what the person's diagnosis is or if they even have one (regardless of how convinced of the fact they may sound) without actual supporting documentation, so formulating a response that addresses a specific disorder is at best a curious thought exercise, at worst a complete waste of time, which is why I generally leave those questions alone (as I did with both questions cited here, despite that I received Memail directing my attention to them). Perhaps the asker experiences some kind of minor epiphany in asking, perhaps some of the answers provide minor insight or useful information, but AskMetafitler simply isn't the forum where meaningful and ongoing change is going to imparted on somebody with a chronic disorder, except for that person to be steered by someone with good information about their disorder towards the real life professional resources that can determine whether they need help, and what help they need if they do, which is generally what I try to limit my contributions to.
posted by The Straightener at 6:27 PM on July 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


This could be confirmation bias, but it seems like there's been a clump of homebound or shut-in questions lately. Has anyone else noticed this?

Going on the assumption they're not fake (and I agree with both the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction and people-are-poor-health-historians points above), I wonder if something has brought attention to AskMe from folks fitting the homebound profile lately. Like the media coverage of us helping out fake's friends?

On the other hand, it's summer, so kids are home from school with time to kill (and erections to obsess over).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:40 PM on July 26, 2010


You know, it's so funny, because this whole conversation reminds me of how different AskMe is from other Q&A sites I'm on. Like, nobody on Stack Overflow cares if you ACTUALLY are having problems with your classpath.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:44 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


prefpara- You have failed the test.

You said you think posts like these do more harm then good, yet you still clicked on it, read down, at least 50 posts or so, and commented.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

My question was not so much questioning the content or the "story," but more about whether I was crazy in thinking that it was possible this could be a fake? Am I the only one to question some of these questions?

Apparently not, and that should not upset anyone.
posted by TheBones at 6:50 PM on July 26, 2010


Prefpara, I'm sorry, no "tests" no failing, no one failed at anything. Didn't know why I wrote that.
posted by TheBones at 6:51 PM on July 26, 2010


Has anyone else noticed this? -- No, but I think we're all getting really experienced dealing with 19 year old gay men who are questioning their sexuality, and all the ways it impacts their lives.
posted by crunchland at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2010


No, but I think we're all getting really experienced dealing with 19 year old gay men who are questioning their sexuality, and all the ways it impacts their lives.

Leave the kid alone, please. We spoke to him and I'd prefer if people left that particular topic alone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:03 PM on July 26, 2010


Nobody told me there were fake questions! Now I can finally get rid of this stockpile of fake answers!
posted by Jon-o at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2010


prefpara, I'm like you when asking for help, and I think you're right about the risks in calling out questions as fake. Thanks for your comment, I'd favorite it 100 times if I could, it was exceedingly well-said and kind-hearted.
posted by donnagirl at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I started counting on June 10, 2006 and I've found three so far. I examine each question very carefully, creating pie charts and graphs and even look for hidden anagrams. It is very time consuming as I'm sure you can imagine but also tremendously rewarding, as I'm sure you can also imagine. If anyone would like to help by starting on June 9, 2006 and working back through the archives, please send your cv to me via email.

Dobbs, you fool, you have been duplicating my work, except that my methods appear to be more exacting, and therefore more reliable. In addition to pie charts and graphs and hidden anagrams, I have also:

Recorded myself reading each AskMe question aloud and then playing the recording backwards.

Re-enacted each question in front of a panel of non-English speaking children. Any question that provoked intense interest was then mimed in slow motion.

Each question was written down on a piece of tissue paper and then weighed against "Truth"-- truth being represented by a Buffalo nickle.

My conclusion? Since June 9 2006 there has only been 1 true fake AskMe question.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:21 PM on July 26, 2010


No one, ever, is fake on the internet.

Some1 never met Kaycee Nicole.
posted by carsonb at 7:35 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've noticed over the past couple of weeks a couple of posts that are just too weird/perfect in their own strangeness that I had a hard time believing they weren't created by someone. Is this a real phenomenon on askmefi, or are these real people asking real questions?

Here are 2 examples.

If you read the eloquent and detailed replies to those questions and any others that score on your fake-o-meter, you'd know that these situations as described are not so outlandish. Or are the replies fake too?
posted by desuetude at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2010


carsonb: "No one, ever, is fake on the internet.

Some1 never met Kaycee Nicole.
"

That's what I thought when I read his post.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:20 PM on July 26, 2010


Misha, TheBones, one thing you may not be taking into account regarding the specificity and detail of the questions is that someone who is home bound or Agoraphobic, even with television, the internet, and whatever other kinds of toys to occupy them, still probably has a lot of time to sit and think about the situation. Often times they maybe even "lost in their own heads." The question you see now may actually be the 500th draft of a question they've been working up the courage to ask for months or even years.
posted by FireballForever at 8:31 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


carsonb & IndigoRain, read the whole paragraph, and then the third paragraph of that comment.

I stand by what I said. I think your example supports it, in spades, actually.
posted by Some1 at 8:56 PM on July 26, 2010


Ok, so there are so many former agoraphobics in this thread, could you please explain away what made me suspicious... how do you get groceries if you're house-bound? I mean, I get that there are delivery services, but I would think they require you to interact with a stranger in one way or another, if only to allow them to bring you what you've ordered.

And more than just groceries, there are a million and one reasons why you'd need to interact with strangers -- air conditioner repair, plumbing issues, cable installers, etc. etc.. (And I'm not trying to be insulting. I'm seriously curious how one copes with it.)
posted by crunchland at 8:58 PM on July 26, 2010


You know, Some1, I had a huge long comment typed out that didn't make any sense. I kept going back to reread your comment (I skipped most of it the first time, admitted, because it read like everything I had to read on the discussion board of my recent 100-level computer-mediated communication course) to try to parse what you were saying, but it's not very clear. Can you flesh out your ideas a bit, or restate?

Anyway, saying nothing is gained by lying online, especially opposed to lying IRL, is either so foolishly naive as to be not worth reading the full comment, or just blithely, highly enlightened. (Hard to side with the latter, as you're commenting in MetaTalk OH SNAP.) Kaycee Nicole was a lie for as long as people believed her story, and 'she' gained a whole lot of cold hard cash out of it.
posted by carsonb at 9:22 PM on July 26, 2010


Crunchland, agoraphobia isn't a fear of strangers as you seem to mistakenly believe. It's a panic disorder that triggers oftentimes when a person thinks they are going to get lost or trapped (or have a panic attack) in an unfamiliar situation. It's often associated with home bound people, because home is a kind of "safe base", and often times agoraphobics avoid all other public places because of it.
posted by FireballForever at 9:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


An Answerable Question is not a matter of false and true, any more than it is of Good and Evil. There's nothing wrong with ignoring or skipping or disdaining the premises, but the question itself, the linguistic object, is the only thing that exists, the only phenomena. You have to deal with it qua object to answer it successfully. Therefore the only good questions worth answering correspond to a set of a priori standards of internal consistency and harmonious connection, such that your answers shall be the instruments upon which its symphony of communication shall be played. All other considerations are as futile as chasing an old whippoorwill up a beech tree--the songs are bewitching, but the bird is long gone whenever you get to the top.

Best Wishes,
Robert Penn Warren, A Real Ghost
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:31 PM on July 26, 2010


prefpara, thank you for your kind and vulnerable words.

TheBones, I was all set to tee off on you for your "failed the test" comment, and then you had to go and apologize immediately and be all accountable. Seriously, good on you. But I do wish you would consider whether your need for group validation of your snap judgment is really that much more important than the feelings and well-being of people who may well be in a very tough spot.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:33 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


how do you get groceries if you're house-bound?
You order them online, they get delivered to your doorstep in boxes during a set time slot. You open the door for two minutes and bring the boxes inside, without having to speak to anyone or even see anyone if you don't want to.
And if you live in a good apartment complex, you don't have to meet people to get stuff fixed. You ask the super to fix something via an online form, then hide in the bedroom with the door closed while they do the work. I'm not housebound or agoraphobic, but I have done all those things. It's easy once you are moved into an apartment.
posted by gemmy at 9:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I consider myself a shut-in. Although to some extent I think of myself as a victim of circumstance, I've come to accept the reasons are mostly irrelevant, and it's a life I've ultimately chosen for myself.

With little exception, my only interaction with the world is through the internet, and even then I generally post anonymously. I would hazard there are fewer than a hundred people who know me by name, and most of them were from school and university. Certainly none that I have spoken to in the last 5 years. I've askedmefi for advice in the past.

As jessamyn said, statistically speaking it's highly unlikely that anyone knows a shut-in since we don't know anyone ourselves. I imagine it would be extremely difficult to empathise.

crunchland, I do the shopping once a fortnight, at a local grocery. It's among one of the few exceptions to being more or less housebound. I've had plumbing done, services installed, bought furniture and I've moved house a few times. I'm nervous around strangers but able to cope. Then again, for me it's not really agoraphobia, it's just that I'm a loner and have never much enjoyed socialising or anything really, so that's one of the reasons I don't go out.
posted by crn at 9:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crunchland, another thing you might be missing out on in your idea of these shut-ins is that often times they have some sort of support/enabling structure. In both of these questions, it is very likely that the family is providing at least on the level of groceries. In the case of severe shut-ins like hikokomori, parents will provide food and leave it at the door of the rooms of their children, thus avoiding all actual human interaction.
posted by that girl at 9:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


carsonb, how truly wonderfully nice for you, you need not understand things to gain superiority, but can find it within your failing to grasp as well. Wow.

Some seem to have understood my words. So in spite of your stated expertise in "computer assisted communication", which I accept at face value, perhaps the lack is not in what I wrote.

It might be possible, though perhaps outside you world, for there to exist people with great needs, needs for sympathy. If such persons create personae, which receive that sympathy, it is not false no matter how many of the details don't actually exist. True they "lie" about the details, but the needs, the hurt is not "fake" even when it continues for years and years and years. Are you with me so far?

The giving of sympathy, which I guess I need to point out to you, is the most tangible thing that can be given through a monitor, harms no one. (Some people, who you may find foolish, feel giving that is actually helpful, not harmful.) And I think it should be mentioned that Kaycee Nicole operated that persona for a long time before she gained anything else.

Those who chose to cross into that screen, to bring RL together with the net, did so themselves, their pockets were not picked. I'm not defending her accepting that money, not at all, but her actions in doing so do not prove that the suffering, needy person she presented to others was "fake", it doesn't prove that she operated for so long with that monetary gain as a goal. In deed I think it quite unlikely that very many could, and those that could could also find much, much simpler and lucrative frauds. Maybe not, unlike some people I don't think I understand everything in the world, so I'm not willing to dismiss as incomprehensible all that I don't understand.
posted by Some1 at 10:07 PM on July 26, 2010


Alright, I'll play the sophomore to your elderly windbag Some1—but only because I like being talked down to.

The giving of sympathy, which I guess I need to point out to you, is the most tangible thing that can be given through a monitor, harms no one.

Thanks for the pointer, though I'd rather have you explain to me what you mean by it. I strongly disagree that 'the most tangible thing that can be given through a monitor' is sympathy unless you are talking literally about CRTs and LCDs and photons hitting eyeballs. In which case, none of it is tangible at all. I'm inclined to interpret what you say to refer to the whole of online interaction—phone calls, social networking, shopping, linking, all that jazz and everything else—not just words on a screen. When we discuss the general interaction of people through the Internet, there's plenty more that's tangible, nearly anything that can be had with a wink and a lie in real life, that's available to those who would.
posted by carsonb at 10:27 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Eat It side would have to go through the entire contents of a random college student's fridge.

The Don't Eat It side would have to eat delivery pizzas, one after another, as fast as they were delivered.


Oh man I am totally stabbing the 'Eat It' side in the back once all the Budweisers and frozen tabs of acid are gone.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:27 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


True they "lie" about the details, but the needs, the hurt is not "fake" even when it continues for years and years and years. Are you with me so far?

That's a mighty broad assumption about why people lie.
posted by carsonb at 10:34 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I went and read through some random books from the bookshelf, and it turns out I'm not parsing anything correctly at all right now. Which isn't to say I'm agreeing with your whole 'nobody is fake on the Internet' original assertion, Some1, only noting I ought to go back and re-read and re-respond after some rest.
posted by carsonb at 10:44 PM on July 26, 2010


In response to this:

"Ok, so there are so many former agoraphobics in this thread, could you please explain away what made me suspicious... how do you get groceries if you're house-bound? "

Not to be a jerk, and I'm happy to talk about it (as a current agoraphobic) but sometimes it's better to do basic research about a topic before assuming that someone is lying about it. To me, the answer to your question is obvious. The asker doesn't live alone. I assume that's how they get groceries--other people buy them.

Not only that, she never mentioned agoraphobia, just being housebound. In a lot of places, not having a car renders you effectively unable to go anywhere.

Agoraphobics don't starve, and probably cut through the panic to figure out a food thing, or, fuck, just order pizza. Although I imagine our diets are limited by what we can get and at some point malnutrition, obesity, or whatever might result (I hesitate to generalize because I'm the only person I know with this issue). Lucky me, I live in NYC and can have nearly anything delivered (and do).

I don't have social anxiety at all. I love people. In fact, I use that to motivate myself to get out of the house despite the discomfort (sometimes panic that lasts for the entire trip to wherever I'm going, yay) because I need to desensitize myself and keep going out or I won't get better.

Plus, having someone to meet or going with someone else makes me feel less anxious which makes sense, given that my phobia probably results at least in part from prior disassociative episodes/flashbacks that left me disoriented and terrified. Scary but tolerable if someone is there with you or you know that you'll be with a friend soon. Really scary if you're on the subway by yourself, surrounded by lots of motion and change and loud noise and strangers. Worried that you might fall or get on the wrong train or lose your wallet in the midst of dozens (or hundreds) of people, with no idea how soon you'll be able to see someone familiar. No way to call a friend. It is the worst.

Walking around is not so bad, especially in my neighborhood, and along a few set routes where I can stop in and be in familiar territory. If given the choice between the subway and walking, I will choose walking. I don't mind taking taxis too much but financially it's not so great, so I try to stay within walking distance of home.

Anyway, I wrote that I don't mind talking about this, but I kinda do, especially to people who are skeptical. It sucks and I'm embarrassed by it. Very few people who know me know about it. Well, I guess they do now. I got really upset when my boyfriend noticed my extreme reluctance to ride the subway.

I don't want to get attention for it. My motivation is to educate people so they will understand it a little more and perhaps be more sympathetic, and possibly to reach out to someone else who is experiencing something similar so that they don't feel alone.

In a way I'm glad that you posted this, but would like to see an approach like "I don't seem to know a lot about being house-bound, because these scenarios sound really unfamiliar to me. Can someone tell me more?"
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:19 PM on July 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't know anything at all about being housebound. These scenarios seem utterly alien to me. I'd really appreciate knowing more.

How does someone who's housebound or agoraphobic make a living?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:01 AM on July 27, 2010


1. Never leave the house.
2. ...
3. Profit.

posted by doublehappy at 12:26 AM on July 27, 2010


Inheritance, in my case.
posted by crn at 12:56 AM on July 27, 2010


My guess, based purely on hunches and instinct, is about 5% of human relations questions are wholly fictitious, and about 15% very exaggerated or distorted, and this is pretty low by general Internet standards.

It really stretches my belief to think that less than 5% are fictitious. People on anonymous or pseudonymous forums just aren't scrupulously honest. When I talk to real people about what they say online, quite a large proportion cheerfully talk about making things up. I just don't see how Metafilter can magically make people honest.

Now on a different topic, does anyone have links to those oversize condom stores? I met up with some cheerleaders last night and used up my last two dozen.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:33 AM on July 27, 2010


What a lot of people don't know is that when AskMe first started, cortex wrote an automatic question-generating script to pad out the front page with fake questions until things got going. It didn't work very well.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:46 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you crazy to suspect the veracity? No.

However, like prefpara and others, I too would point out that public disbelief is not helpful in cases where abuse could indeed be happening. I too was quizzical at a mid-20s person still being homebound (and assumed they were being supported by their parents, since that's where they say they live — by the way, why the questions about how they make a living or get groceries? probably their parents do the bare minimum). But that asker also mentions a sister in trouble — they may well be held back from jumping out of the nest because they know they could be their sister's only real hope. They may not have looked into social aid because they have no idea about it, or worry that their case might not be believed. They may not realize that social workers are trained to recognize and help in cases of emotional and psychological abuse, not just physical abuse that leaves visible bruises, which is the type of abuse most people think of. And it's the type of abuse that most people believe, which is to say they believe emotional/psychological abuse less (though this is getting better with time, it seems), or "just" underestimate the damage it can do. If you doubt, okay, but if you can't relate and can't help, what's the purpose of doubting publicly?
posted by fraula at 3:14 AM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Now on a different topic, does anyone have links to those oversize condom stores? I met up with some cheerleaders last night and used up my last two dozen.

This actually happened to me.
posted by doublehappy at 4:19 AM on July 27, 2010


Sometimes you don't make a living. Sometimes you are too severely disabled, and if you're in the US, and are lucky, you try to scrape by on SSDI. Sometimes you live in supportive care, if your illness is severe.

Sometimes you live with family or a spouse and perhaps take care of household work, which doesn't earn 'pay.' Sometimes you are dependent on them completely and do little w/r/t housework. For good or ill, we live in a very individualistic society, and it is considered odd or an outlier to provide care to family members or close friends who are ill and can't provide for themselves traditionally. (It's not that odd--we just pretend it is.)

Sometimes you do freelance work--writing, or site design, or any of many other types of work that don't require more than a small home office space.

Sometimes you do go out in the world to a small, nearby job, but it uses up all of your energy and you come home exhausted after part-time hours. Sometimes the disruptions are cyclic, and when it remits a bit, you work as hard as you can at whatever work you can get and save as much as you can--which isn't usually much--until it comes back.

FWIW, I don't have agoraphobia. I do have a couple of chronic health conditions that sometimes limit my ability to leave the house or navigate the outside world safely, and I extrapolated from there. If I'm incorrect on any points, people who do live with this, please do correct me.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I subscribe to the Loveline credo. Even if suspect a question about a serious situation to be fake, you have to treat it as real until you know otherwise. Abuse, assault, things of this nature deserve a straight answer because even if the question is fake, it's gotta be real enough for someone out there that it may help them.
posted by inturnaround at 5:15 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


"How does someone who's housebound or agoraphobic make a living?"

Uniformitarianism Now! has it right, although like I said I don't know any other agoraphobic people.

If I really need to be somewhere I can suck it up and go. I'm much better about it now actually and haven't missed a day of work for years. The biggest problem is that I tend to delay and delay until I "need" to take a cab so I won't be late. Once I get really used to the routine of going it's a little easier. Ideally I would be within walking distance (or cheap-ish cab distance). Once I walk somewhere over and over, it's a lot easier.

It also gives me motivation to leave the house which desensitizes me and really helps keep me from being depressed, so it's a trade off. (Also, you know, money). My family relies on me to bring in money so, I do it to the best of my ability. In this sense I really empathize with people with social anxiety who work.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:42 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, there was a really rough period of time where I didn't leave the house alone, except to see my shrink or doctor. I relied on a small amount of savings, credit cards. My husband provided health insurance, rent, and food.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:47 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, I never did think "two scoops" sounded like a lot of raisins. Who's with me?
posted by norm at 7:02 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, like prefpara and others, I too would point out that public disbelief is not helpful in cases where abuse could indeed be happening.

Yeah, and it doesn't need to be a situation with "abuse." It's just plain rude when someone pours their heart out in an AskMe question about their personal life to basically say, "This is so outlandish, you're probably lying." That's not just the wrong way to treat people if they're abuse victims; it's straight-up meanness no matter what the situation is (unless you know for sure that the question is fake, which you probably don't).

If there's a serious concern about whether an AskMe question is real, why not just contact the mods privately? If it's turns out to be fake, the mods can handle it. And if it's real, then you avoided hurting the person's feelings.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


To back up Some1's point a little, several times in my offline life I've been 'trolled' by people who spun me a sob story and seemed to want nothing more from me than my complete attention - not money or a place to stay, just someone to listen to them for several hours a day, for months at a time. Eventually I got wise to it and learned to spot people like this a mile off, which is good because they'll suck you dry of any compassionate instincts you might have.

But in every case where I'd been fooled by an outlandish story I later found out that although the stories I'd been told were complete fabrications, the person had in fact been through some sort of traumatic experience: rape, incest, severe emotional abuse. With the benefit of hindsight, I'd say the crazy-sounding stories were an unconscious way of getting practice before they told the real one. Maybe it's a way of testing the boundaries of what people will accept, if they're afraid of how people will react. Or maybe some of the cases were more like The Straightener's experience, with people being aware they have a problem but unable to accurately describe or comprehend it.

I try to avoid getting into that kind of drama now. But when I encounter someone who seems to have really odd problems, I let them know that lots of people get therapy these days and how they could get some for themselves, if they wanted.

Not to imply that shut-ins and agoraphobics have really odd problems: those seem pretty damn common to me. Those questions didn't seem strange to me at all.
posted by harriet vane at 7:42 AM on July 27, 2010


When my agoraphobia was really at its worst, I had much less trouble with mobility. Now it's pretty well treated (haven't had a panic attack in over a year, and that one was notable for its rarity) but my mobility's decreased to the point I really have to push myself to leave the house. O, Henry!
posted by jtron at 7:48 AM on July 27, 2010


There was a quote by Neil Gaiman going around Twitter that I think can apply to AskMe pretty well:

"Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing and life doesn’t."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've come to think of AskMe as a bar. It makes the ridiculous, outlandish, exaggerated, made up stuff much more entertaining if you think of Anonymous as a drunken guy with a mustache on the next barstool claiming he actually wrote "Bell Bottom Blues" for Eric Clapton.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:54 AM on July 27, 2010


I know, with an iron certainty, that all the questions here are fake. Every single one of them. But I'm not going to let those bastards win, oh no. So I answer every question with complete earnestness. Just to spite them.
posted by quin at 8:02 AM on July 27, 2010


This manifests itself in more places than just AskMe. Everything MetaFilter "doesn't do well", from Conservatives to Religion to Sports to Circumcision is problematic because many people on MetaFilter can't understand or empathise that other people act and think and believe differently than they do. They must be crazy or delusional or evil or...just broken in some fundamental way (or, in the case of AskMe, disingenuous). Some people just don't get why everyone else can't see the one obvious and unquestionable truth as they see it. They don't take into account that others have had different parents, influences, friends, education, and social structures that have shaped them differently, and that their resulting differences are perfectly reasonable and rational in that context. It's a form of privilege that we were lucky enough to have had access to liberal and progressive ideas and were able to explore them in a supportive environment. That we would then go on and treat those who didn't with derision and mockery and hatred really betrays those very ideals.
Maybe the answer is that we need to get out more...interact with those we don't understand and don't seem to have anything in common with and get a handle on just how many different personal realities there are out there. Maybe we'd be less likely to question others' motives or sanity.
posted by rocket88 at 8:40 AM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's a form of privilege that we were lucky enough to have had access to liberal and progressive ideas and were able to explore them in a supportive environment. That we would then go on and treat those who didn't with derision and mockery and hatred really betrays those very ideals.

Yeah ... and we brand them with the "privilege" epithet if their views are different from ours.*

*This comment is meant to be ironic but not sarcastic.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:44 AM on July 27, 2010


It's a form of privilege that we were lucky enough to have had access to liberal and progressive ideas and were able to explore them in a supportive environment.

This is so...huh.

I thought that comment was actually going to go somewhere good, and this just... It was like a plea for acceptance and understanding, and then it turned into this crazy patronizing, "we should feel sorry for them because they didn't have our advantages."

You know, it's possible for educated, reasonable people to rationally disagree about things. It's not that those poor disadvantaged other people just didn't have the exposure you had to The One True Way.

It's also possible for people to agree with you for careless or irrational or ill-informed reasons.
posted by not that girl at 9:03 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


To some extent, you need to trust your gut when trying to figure out if someone is lying or not. And maybe it's not even an issue of "need." Maybe you are just GOING to trust your gut. But if you can bring rationality your lie detection, remember two things: first, (as many people have said), this is a big world that contains many people who are different from you; second, some of us think of everything we write as narrative. I want to expand on that second point, because the OP is suspicious of questions that seem too pat.

When I write, I try to tell a story. I proof-read everything I post for mechanical errors and to make sure it works as a narrative. I don't mean I'm making up fiction. I mean "story" in the same sense a journalist might mean it. I mean that it needs to have a narrative structure, with a beginning, middle, end, suspense and an arc. And I am liable to employ literary devices like metaphor in something as nuts-and-bolts as an AskMe question or a letter to my mom. If you've been writing this way for years, it's second nature. You don't have to try very hard.

We can argue about the wisdom of this, but my point is that I'm not lying when I do it. I'm just a believer that written "utterances" should follow certain rules. There are many positives to following these rules. But, I guess, a negative is that my non-fiction writing can seem like fiction.

Since you can't reliably tell truth from falsehood by "how odd the story is" or "how much it seems like a story," I suggest you rely on internal consistency. Though it opens me up to be a sucker at times, I err on the side of "it's true," unless someone says, "I'm in high school, and..." in the first sentence and "Back in the 70s, when I was 14..." in a sentence that follows.
posted by grumblebee at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suggest you rely on internal consistency. Though it opens me up to be a sucker at times, I err on the side of "it's true," unless someone says, "I'm in high school, and..." in the first sentence and "Back in the 70s, when I was 14..." in a sentence that follows.

Actually, that's also dicey.

Maybe they posted for someone else and didn't bother to indicate that point.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:21 AM on July 27, 2010


You know, it's possible for educated, reasonable people to rationally disagree about things.

This.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2010


...it turned into this crazy patronizing, "we should feel sorry for them because they didn't have our advantages."

It was meant more as "we should be less dismissive of them because they didn't have our experiences". Patronizing wasn't my intent.
posted by rocket88 at 9:31 AM on July 27, 2010


Maybe the answer is that we need to get out more...

This should be attached to the "everyone needs a hug" guideline.

posted by Drastic at 9:42 AM on July 27, 2010


Actually, that's also dicey.

I meant consistency within a single question.
posted by grumblebee at 9:47 AM on July 27, 2010


With respect to agoraphobia, it's important to note that it varies from person to person, and the amount of fear vary from day to day. idfssn9's story resonated in certain ways but not others. I am socially phobic to some degree, but I have no problem taking public transportation. The subway feels "safer" than walking to me. It doesn't make sense, right? That's the whole point. I think ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) might be easier for the average person to relate to. My mother can't even look at a picture of a snake.

I am not, strictly speaking, housebound, but it's harder for me to leave the house on some days than it is on others. To keep with the snake metaphor: some days, it's as if there were a little garter snake on the sidewalk, and other days, it feels like venturing into Indiana Jones' snake pit. Except for my current bout of unemployment, I've worked since high school, and many days I've just had to force myself to do it. If I didn't absolutely need to, I wouldn't. I'm lucky that right now, my husband can support us while I look for work. I don't leave the house much when he's at work; we do the grocery shopping etc together, and sometimes I can't even go with him. I do try and force myself out at least once a day, if only for a walk around the park. So it's not that agoraphobic necessarily means one is housebound, it's that the phobia makes it more difficult not to be.
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) might be easier for the average person to relate to. My mother can't even look at a picture of a snake.

Your mother and I are soul sisters.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:01 AM on July 27, 2010


I did not see that pretty generic brouhaha in real time but only after when it was in metatalk. In the years I have been reading askmetafilter I have been disturbed once and only once. There were two questions inside a one week period that looked to me like:

1.) there is no way this is not fake

2.) the topic is bull's eye hit on something the site has received loads of ungracious posts in the past, if not all out flames--Israel / Palestine, sexism, circumcision, cat declawing, &c.

I e-mailed the mods. I did not receive a reply. I sometimes wonder if they get much e-mail raising (false?) alarms regarding askmetafilter questions.

There is a Confucian analect which is reminiscent of languagehat's observation. It goes something like: when somebody angers you, the first thing you should do is examine your own life for instances of you doing similar to others.
posted by bukvich at 10:09 AM on July 27, 2010


I e-mailed the mods. I did not receive a reply.

Weird, we try to reply to pretty much everything. I've got an old contact mail with your username on it from you on an unrelated matter, but nothing else, and nothing from the email address listed in your profile. It's possible something just went weird with the contact form process in the first place, but if you have an idea of what other email address you might have been sending it from, send me a mefimail and I can take a look and see if it ever got to us.

I sometimes wonder if they get much e-mail raising (false?) alarms regarding askmetafilter questions.

Not much, no.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:17 AM on July 27, 2010


There was a quote by Neil Gaiman going around ... "Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing and life doesn’t."

That was Mark Twain.

Maybe we'd be less likely to question others' motives or sanity.

I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, unless they're liars or crazy people.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:25 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


2.) the topic is bull's eye hit on something the site has received loads of ungracious posts in the past, if not all out flames--Israel / Palestine, sexism, circumcision, cat declawing, &c.

Not too long ago, someone accused an member of doing this. In his case, he posted a question about something hot topic that was being actively argued about in a thread that was live at the time of his question.

Based on a long, private correspondence with this person, I am 99% sure that (a) he was not trolling; (b) he was unaware of the other thread; (c) he was unaware that the topic was generally inflammatory.

Sometimes coincidences happen. Sometimes people are clueless.
posted by grumblebee at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2010


I e-mailed the mods. I did not receive a reply.

I'll echo, weird. Unless it was in the middle of ten other emails saying "you need to handle this NOW" for something going very wrong, we try to write back to every email that doesn't call us fuckwitted assholes.

And yeah we don't get a lot of email from people just asking us general "do you think this is real?" type questions, though there have been a few users who have consistently gotten that response from people enough so we've had to chat with them about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on July 27, 2010


we try to write back to every email that doesn't call us fuckwitted assholes.

THAT'S why you haven't been answering my emails? Geez. How was I supposed to know?

Fuckwitted assholes.
posted by grumblebee at 10:45 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, that's also dicey.

I meant consistency within a single question.


Ah, but they say liars are usually very internally consistent.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:17 AM on July 27, 2010


They lie.
posted by grumblebee at 11:56 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My maternal grandmother was agoraphobic and she never learned to drive. She rode to and from work (across the street, at another assembly plant) with my grandfather. Before they married when she was 17, she rode a horse to school with her brother and worked in cotton and corn fields with her family every summer.

When my grandfather died, she remarried. She only left the house for groceries, hair appointments and work until she stopped working.

When her second husband died, the cousins took turns taking her to the store and hair appointments until she had a series of strokes, then lung cancer, and then she died.

So yes, there are agoraphobics who only will leave the house with other people and no other time. My grandmother worked, had children -- but she refused to learn to drive because that meant she'd have to leave home on her own volition and with nobody else to make sure she'd get home again okay but herself.

If I stayed at her house, I had to ride the bus to and from school. No picking me up, no dropping me off, ever.

She did virtually no socializing and seemed unhappy 80 percent of the time, although I'm unsure if that was related to being untreated for her condition.

Toward the end of her life, after long periods alone, my grandmother would occasionally call me up and have really bizarre conversations - "I love you, the house is on fire, I'll see you in heaven, bye" - and then hang up and scare the crap out of me. When this would happen, I'd get a call a few hours later from a panicked relative, saying she had been found walking down the highway, screaming that her house was on fire, wearing only a pink nightgown. It was horribly frustrating to be 110 miles away at college and have no car when these situations arose.

So yeah... life is strange and some people don't cope with it as well as others do. Luckily, the Internet has helped people reach out in ways now that my grandmother never had access to during her lifetime spent inside. I always wonder what would've happened if she'd gotten therapy or the family had refused to drive her places. I have MUCH sympathy for agoraphobics and get a little too cosy at home myself now and then...
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:16 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was Mark Twain.

I hope you tell Neil, it was credited to and reposted by him.

posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2010


> There was a quote by Neil Gaiman going around ... "Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing and life doesn’t."

That was Mark Twain.


According to Yale, what Twain said, in Pudd'nhead, was this:
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
That cite points also to earlier Byron in Don Juan:
'Tis strange—but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction.
And also to Chesterton, a bit after Twain, in The Club of Queer Trades:
Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction...For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it.
Those three dead authors are certainly not the only folks ever to contemplate the odd paradox of verisimilitude vs. the real world, but in this narrow sort of horse race it looks like Byron gets the brass ring for getting there first.

As for Gaiman, his restatement is perfectly reasonably and suitable modern, but beyond that it was a response to a direct prompt in an interview, in which the interviewer begins "Yet people are always saying that life is stranger than fiction...", so if there's any sort of failure to attribute here it's not Gaiman's.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:49 PM on July 27, 2010


it was credited to and reposted by him.

The original quote, from "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar," in Pudd'nhead Wilson is "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:49 PM on July 27, 2010


so if there's any sort of failure to attribute here it's not Gaiman's.

Just so we're clear here, I'm not knocking Gaiman, or accusing him of plagiarism, ok?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:58 PM on July 27, 2010


Sorry, didn't mean to say you were, just got caught up tracking down the quotes once it became clear that the sourcing was a bit muddled. Seemed worth looking at the context in which the quote-of-Gaiman came into being in the first place, to the extent that "that was Twain" both sort of is and definitely isn't correct (it certainly owes a debt to Twain's comments on truth and fiction, but it's manifestly not a verbatim quote of Twain nor is Twain the only author to whom that debt could be claimed to be owed).
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:04 PM on July 27, 2010


I think there's also some value in letting questions stand (without heckling) regardless of their truthfulness. I know someone in an unbelievably bad situation for whom it takes a lot of effort to just ask someone for help, in real life or on the internet, and (from what I can tell - obviously it's not something we've discussed directly) she finds it easier to fabricate a scenario rather than rehash the facts. Some of the stories are transparently fake, others less so, but (again, I'm speculating) she feels more comfortable with people not knowing every single aspect of the truth. Whether this is healthy for her, I'm not so sure, but I (and others) care about her and let it slide because this way she gets advice on her terms.

Ask is here to help people. People sometimes need unorthodox help. As long as their question falls within the parameters of the Ask guidelines, the question should stand.
posted by doublehappy at 2:25 PM on July 27, 2010


Hi, another agoraphobic shut-in here. (God, what an odd thing *that* feels like to say.)

Re: responding to fake vs. real stuff like this, I just wanted to put in a little plug for the other side, as it were. Yeah, there are trolls, "attention whores," etc., but really, what's the worst case here? The worst case is that you've wasted time & emotional energy on someone who didn't need or deserve it -- but even then, maybe you've managed to say something that will be useful for someone else in a similar place (like me). Even if the asker is fake, it doesn't mean their situations don't exist, or that the answers will be worthless to those of us in them.

At best, you've provided real help -- or even just simple kindness -- to someone who really needs it. There have been many times when a few words from people I've never met were all that stood between me and the bullet that I have yet to put in my brain, and I'd hate to see anyone put off from giving that help/kindness to anyone else in need, just for the sake of avoiding trolls/etc... for some of us, at least, that would be a hell of a lot to lose for so little to gain.
posted by Noah at 2:36 PM on July 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


but even then, maybe you've managed to say something that will be useful for someone else in a similar place (like me).

So true, Noah. I have seen many descriptions of what sounded like very peculiar habits only to have a dozen people chime in that they do the same weird thing.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:18 AM on July 28, 2010


TheBones, I'm now seeing you being judgmental in another post where the difference between your situation and the poster's situation leads you to make some unfortunate and unkind/hurtful assumptions. I think you are kind of young, and I hope you will find that your concepts and perceptions become broader, wiser, and more compassionate as time goes on.
posted by taz at 4:23 AM on July 28, 2010


Interesting, I came back to this thread to say the same thing as taz. TheBones, you come across really harsh and judge-y in the recent sick cat AskMe. I can see you're answering the question, but you're laying on a layer of sarcasm that isn't at all warranted. When the poster called you on it, you said, effectively, that if the poster didn't want your response, they shouldn't have asked a question. I don't know if it's "just how you are", since I'd not noticed your name before this MeTa, but you might consider approaching AskMe with a little more openness to other people's experiences and a little less sarcasm.
posted by donnagirl at 5:36 AM on July 28, 2010


you might consider approaching AskMe with a little more openness to other people's experiences and a little less sarcasm.

This would be a good idea. Trying to make answers helpful to the user without adding a bunch of sarcasm, rudeness or snark is what we'd prefer in AskMe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2010


Donnagirl/Taz, you are most likely correct- that's how I am. People don't tend to listen/take advice unless it's shoved in their face, especially on an internet board. Neuropathy in a cat is SERIOUS and could be a DEATH sentence. By the time it's to that point though, there's nothing to be done for the cat/dog all because someone on an internet site said, "oh yeah, my cat had that, it's probably an ear infection, don't worry about it and schedule another appointment with your day practice vet in a couple of weeks."

It's always up to the poster to make the decision and we are NOT there and DON'T know the whole situation, but in cases like this, the ones that chap my ass because of stupidity, yes I come across as being pretty curmudegeonly.

I will tell you though, if my parents called me up and asked me that very same question, I would tell them THE EXACT SAME THING!

I try to make that my credo when I post here. If I won't say it to my wife, I won't type it here. It's not always the case.
posted by TheBones at 10:46 AM on July 28, 2010


As for the advice, it was the best advice on the board- take the cat to the vet school- run, don't walk!
posted by TheBones at 10:46 AM on July 28, 2010


TheBones, I can tell that your intentions are good, but people generally take advice better when they're able to take in new information and think about it. That is hard when they feel upset or insulted by someone. It makes it hard to think and even harder to listen to what that person has to say.

I know it's not your intent to upset or insult anyone but think about the fact that there are different styles of communication in different cultures (even just from NYC to, say, Minnesota), and what might be within the realm of normal or even caring for you or your family, might be harsh and hurtful to someone else. It's hard to know who you're talking to, so maybe it's better to be more gentle than you think you need to be.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:50 AM on July 28, 2010


OK, Some1, I've spent some time thinking about what you've written in this thread, and I think I'm ready to respond. (Hopefully more coherently than I did the other night.)

Overall I agree with you that compassion and sympathy are better reactions to unverified statements of self than outright skepticism because, yeah, it's just the good thing to do. It's the way I expect to be treated when I'm baring my soul, and the way I hope to treat others who I see doing the same. If someone says they hurt, whether it's online or in real life, I would hope compassion and sympathy were my first reactions.

However, when someone says 'I hurt, give me money' or basically anything beyond their state of being, it's not practical to give them the benefit of doubt. Especially in contexts where the verifiability of those statements of being isn't easy. Like online. There is much to be gained from soliciting sympathy and compassion when one's subject cannot verify the necessity of the solicitation. I think that's pretty much the generic basis for any con. I understand that Jesus wants us to throw practicality out of the window in favor of giving the benefit of doubt every time, and it's a good idea that I'd like to see happen, but it requires everyone's participation. And it will never, ever come to pass that everyone is on board.

But, you know, in general I see the benefit of interacting in this way. I try to do it as much as possible personally.

After thinking about it some more, I guess we're pretty much in agreement about how one should react to statements of being, lies or fake or not. What I totally, wholeheartedly, and fully disagree with you on is the separation of Internet Reality and Real-Life Reality, and the idea that perception of self and other are somehow different between the two. The contexts are different, and there are some aspects and constraints of each that can't effectively be replicated by the other, but nobody's one person in one and another person in the other. Unless they're lying. And as much as I wish I could turn the other cheek to a liar, I can't. Liars are bad.

Your lot in life, those things you say can only be circumvented by lying or denying in real life, is analogous to constraints presented by how we interact online. I think there are inevitabilities of self no matter what the venue, and no matter the venue people will lie about their shortcomings for personal or group gain. So when I see someone saying 'I hurt'—online or wherever—I do not doubt that they hurt in one way or another, but I also do not assume that what they ask of me is only sympathy.

I hope that was a little clearer, though I fear it is not.
posted by carsonb at 12:05 PM on July 28, 2010


Not to pile on more, TheBones, but as an example to support ifds,sn9's point: I'll say that what I took away from your response to me was "Yeah, but, I'm right and I'M GOING TO SHOUT SOME THINGS". The rest was all "blah blah blah GINGER". I'm pretty far from a wilting flower about direct talk, and I'm also not a dog named Ginger (even on the internets), so I don't think it's just me. I'm sure you thought you were saying something else, but that's how you've come across.

The thing is, sometimes people don't take your advice, not because they're stupid or need you to shove harder, but because you're not right. For them, for the situation, for whatever. I know it's not easy, because I've been on your side of it too, trying desperately to tell someone in AskMe "no, don't mark that guy Best Answer! He's just telling you what you want to hear!!" So, I understand, and I really appreciate that you want to work on how you give advice, because I know firsthand that it's not easy. AskMe has been great for me in continuing to learn that being smart doesn't equal being right.
posted by donnagirl at 12:12 PM on July 28, 2010


People don't tend to listen/take advice unless it's shoved in their face, especially on an internet board.

Lots of people are significantly less likely to take advice or even perceive it as being offered in good faith in the first place when it's presented aggressively or obnoxiously, really. That goes for face-to-face interactions as well as online discussions.

Certainly there are exceptions, but I think in general those are cases where you need to have a lot of context and some degree of established personal connection with the target of your tough love or whatever to really know that it is (a) warranted and (b) likely to be received well at all.

Getting in random people's faces on askme us not that sort of situation; you really need to actively eliminate that kind of approach from your answering strategy here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


People don't tend to listen/take advice unless it's shoved in their face, especially on an internet board.

I would gently suggest that you might want to rethink this approach.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:38 PM on July 28, 2010


> Donnagirl/Taz, you are most likely correct- that's how I am.

Then stay out of AskMe.
posted by languagehat at 12:57 PM on July 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are ways to be emphatic without being sarcastic or coming across like you think the poster is stupid, naive, ignorant, negligent, etc. Like, saying "Neuropathy is a very, very bad sign in cats. You need to get the cat to a vet as soon as possible - or sooner - or the cat may die. Here's the number for an emergency vet in your city [phonenumber]" gets the seriousness of the situation across without being sarcastic or shouty.

The likelihood of someone taking your advice to heart when it's clear that you think they're stupid is un. So what good has the advice been?
posted by rtha at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2010


AskMetafilter: The likelihood of someone taking your advice to heart is un.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2010


People don't tend to listen/take advice unless it's shoved in their face

Are you, yourself, more likely to take advice from someone if they are aggressive (as opposed to assertive), harsh, and treating you like you're stupid?
posted by Gator at 1:08 PM on July 28, 2010


Am I the only one who thinks the "How Do I Get My Best Friends girl" question is fake?
posted by biochemist at 8:40 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hi, I'm "homebound and friendless." As you might notice, I'm no longer anonymous. There's a reason for that. If I'm going to face the bigger fears, like leaving the house and talking to people offline, I need to face a somewhat smaller one, which is to be more open with "normal" people online about my situation. So, here I am, uncomfortably naked for all to see and judge and possibly ridicule.

I've been lurking this site for several years. It's comfortable lurking, alone, safe from the judgment of people. Believe it or not, my social anxiety manifests itself online as well. In fact, after submitting my post for approval, I went to bed that night and had an anxiety attack because I was so sure one of my fears would once again be validated; the fear of not being believed, the fear of being turned away at a point in my life when I believed this was my last option. I risked a lot writing that post. I risked losing what little hope I had left. Thank god (or science) that didn't happen.

Unfortunately the fear was validated... but only partially. Thankfully, this fine community didn't disappoint me. They tried to give me good advice. A few of them even attempted to work around seemingly "viable options" and provided me a much needed step-by-step guide out of this situation. You don't know how many times I've had people simply tell me to get help or move out or get a job without any suggestions on how I could do that in my current condition. That's why my post was very specific. I wanted to eliminate a lot of unhelpful replies and get a few great ones tailored to my specific needs.

I don't normally talk to people outside of anxiety support sites for several reasons, this post being one of them. I have to admit my first instinct was to "hit and run" after reading this. But I've been running away all my life, and I'm tired of it. So... I finally re-read all the posts today. Now I'm actually glad this thread exists, because you've given others the opportunity to educate people here who share these same doubts. Use this thread as an opportunity to learn about agoraphobia, social anxiety, and the aftermath of social isolation. Read Prefpara's post, especially. When I was overwhelmed by all these comments, when I was at a total loss for words, there was someone here saying what I couldn't say. Prefpara gave so many people in similarly desperate (or worse) situations--people you'll never meet--a voice. I was absolutely floored by some of these comments, Prefpara's and Squad's comments in particular. They inspired me to come out and use my own voice.

My situation is extreme enough to warrant some skepticism, so I certainly can't fault any of you for doubting my story. Sometimes I can't believe my life turned out this way. Sometimes, even now, I doubt my own narrative and make excuses for my parents, who do, by the way, love me in the only way they know how. It's just... their kind of love is not enough. Very often I sweep all this under a rug and somehow convince myself this is how a normal human lives. I want to go back to that. It's easier and "safer" to live a life of avoidance. But my brother recently tried to fight for his life. He completely shattered the illusion we both wanted to continue living in. And I can't go back to that, as much I want to. Not anymore. Not when it means he could lose mobility of his arm. I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner. But for years I was afraid, and I didn't know how to ask for help without turning people away. If I'm too dramatic, I'm an attention whore. If I'm defensive, I'm a troll. It's possible this thread would still exist, even if I worded things in just the right way.

TheBones: It's not my intention to sway you or make you feel guilty. I'm only here to try to help you and others understand the aftermath of years of isolation, and how anxiety can become so debilitating and completely destroy your life. It even destroys the lives of anxiety sufferers out there with emotionally supportive friends and family. I admit, that was unfathomable for me until two years ago. I learned something important from talking to anxious people in "better situations"; that my situation could never invalidate the pain they're going through. Ever. I can only hope you walk away from this thread with a similar learning experience. You don't have to believe me to learn something.

I know it's hard to imagine, but think, really think about what you'd be like today if you were isolated as a child. Imagine all this with social anxiety too. Tell me you wouldn't struggle to understand this complicated adult world with the mind of a child. Tell me it wouldn't be humiliating when most people's default reaction to you is unsympathetic, because you're an adult now, so "get a job and be one". You're expected to already have the "common knowledge" to type "family services" into google and figure this out on your own, even though you didn't even know that was an option until now. People rarely understand there's an aftermath, that you can't just venture out in the world as if none of things you went through never happened. Sure, you try... but somehow, you end up back here.

While my anxiety is more debilitating now, I have more opportunities to educate myself now than I did back then. I'm so lucky to have the internet. I can only imagine where I'd be without it. I've learned a lot these last few years from downloading books and video courses on torrent sites. Some of those books are "Life Skills" type books. I use them to learn about this unfamiliar adult world, and what to expect. Still, there are gigantic gaps of knowledge and thus, there will always be the chance I'll be ridiculed for not knowing (insert common knowledge here). It's one of the reasons I'm too afraid to talk to people online. The more I talk, the more obvious it is I'm uneducated.

All these years I spent many of my nights googling things like, "homebound and friendless", "how to get help when you're homebound", "social anxiety even online", "no insurance therapy", "E.R mental illness social anxiety", etc. I was always too overwhelmed to go through it all. I could never pick out what was actually applicable to me. Some of you said my question was unanswerable. Maybe so, but I did get some fantastic ideas and the encouragement I needed.

By the way, I re-read the Aspergers guy's post too, and I have one question: What is so unbelievable about a shut-in with Aspergers? Is it because his post came after mine? If so, that's sad, and I'm sorry he was spotlighted because of me. But it's also possible he posted that because of my post, and because of the kind and thoughtful replies I got. For all we know he waited years to make that post and only came out when he saw it was safe to do so. Don't be surprised if there are more homebound questions in the future. I think we are paving a road for other shut-ins to come out and ask for help.
posted by Faraday Cage at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


Thanks very much for that gutsy comment, Faraday Cage. I'm glad you were able to filter out the jackasses and focus on what you could get out of the thread. I wish you all the best in dealing with your situation.
posted by languagehat at 2:12 PM on July 30, 2010


Good to hear more from you. I think you picked a great community to open up to.

I'm glad that I talked about my agoraphobia here, even though I'm still nervous about it because I'm so used to hiding it. So thank you for providing an excellent example of openness. I think your post will have the end result of encouraging and educating a lot of people. Thank you for that.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:44 PM on July 30, 2010


Faraday- you are a FANTASTIC WRITER! I was thrown off of your original post, and the other post, partially because of the level of writing. It didn't taste right as I was reading it aloud.

I was, in no way, questioning the contents, or the validity of either of the stories presented. It was more of a "wait a second, am I crazy for thinking this is fake?"

Hence the title of the post. You DID NOT need to come on here to justify your story. I could have picked any one of a number of other posts I've seen recently that I had to stop myself and ask, "is it me, or does something not quite feel right about this."
posted by TheBones at 4:41 PM on July 30, 2010


TheBones--- fail. This is the part where you tuck your tail between your legs, apologize, and accept that your inexperience wasn't just misguided, it was almost harmful. I sincerely hope that you don't just read and comprehend the events of this thread, but you back away and spend some time actually absorbing.

Pro Tip: There are very, very few threads on Ask with verifiable correct answers. Neither your vehemence, confidence, nor your tenacity in any way engender you with any authority to decide who can do what, when, with whom, or under what circumstances. MeFi is a community, and while some of us are merely allowed to occupy tents around the perimeter; feeding off the tertiary scraps of the more active members, none of us is welcome to cause harm to another.

Again, I not-so-gently encourage you to adopt a larger world view, or to take languagehat's advice above.
posted by TomMelee at 6:05 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


TheBones: In that case, I can't help but question my reading comprehension skills (I'm not being sarcastic). I'm only comforted by the fact many people, including a mod, initially replied as if you were doubting the authenticity of two homebound, socially inept people's AskMe posts. Either you weren't clear at first, or some of us turned this thread into something it wasn't. I can understand what it's like to say something and have people respond as if you're saying something else. It's frustrating. I'm sorry if my reply was like that for you. But I disagree with you: I did need to come out and post that, for myself, and for others out there who misconstrued the intention and meaning of your post.
posted by Faraday Cage at 6:37 PM on July 30, 2010


"wait a second, am I crazy for thinking this is fake?"
"is it me, or does something not quite feel right about this."


Now is when you step up and state your findings.
posted by carsonb at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2010


TheBones: In that case, I can't help but question my reading comprehension skills (I'm not being sarcastic). I'm only comforted by the fact many people, including a mod, initially replied as if you were doubting the authenticity of two homebound, socially inept people's AskMe posts. Either you weren't clear at first, or some of us turned this thread into something it wasn't. I can understand what it's like to say something and have people respond as if you're saying something else. It's frustrating. I'm sorry if my reply was like that for you. But I disagree with you: I did need to come out and post that, for myself, and for others out there who misconstrued the intention and meaning of your post.

You, Faraday Cage, are a good egg and are being very gracious and generous-minded. Good for you, and thanks for speaking up.

As for me, I'm thinking that certain people should be standing in the corner and thinking about what they've done.
posted by desuetude at 7:16 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I'm sorry if my reply was like that for you.

For heaven's sake, don't apologize. That's what TheBones should be doing. Sadly, I don't think it's in the cards.
posted by languagehat at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ha, languagehat/TomMelee, you 2 are definitely funny ones.

Sure, I'm not small enough that I can't apologize or recognize if I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I didn't word the question well enough or get my point across.

It doesn't mean that you aren't an asshat as well (yes, I am one, never said I wasn't, won't lie to you and say I'm not).

Carsonb- I would say that after seeing the vitriol that has been brought about on this thread, I'm definitely going to be more careful. I have learned that holding hands is important here and that making sure no feelings are hurt is important.

As for standing in a corner, I'm crying on the inside right now. In fact, I'll probably have to bring this up in my next therapy session and spend at least 5 to 10 hours or $1000, whichever comes first.

I'll leave you with this, after my snark above- I'm not above apologizing, as I did above. I HAVE learned something- you guys are assholes to assholes- completely deserved on my part. If I don't want that, which I really don't care either way, then I can choose to stop being an asshole.
posted by TheBones at 5:17 PM on July 31, 2010


BTW, languagehat, you had a pretty decent insight on my very first question. I was in a REALLY bad place. I knew I knew the handle from somewhere.
posted by TheBones at 5:21 PM on July 31, 2010


Where did you apologize? I only see one of those squirmy "I'm sorry if you misunderstood me" things.

I'm talking about apologizing to the two MeFites who you called out as posting fake questions.

You're still being kind of a dick, here.
posted by desuetude at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2010


I am sorry.

I am sorry if I showed a skewed/small world view. I'm sorry I didn't walk into the question with eyes wide open and trust in the nature of ask metafilter- that each question is real and demands no less from their responses.

I'm sorry I didn't spend more time on my question to word it better to give a better sense of what I wanted to accomplish in this thread.

I'm also sorry to anyone I have personally offended here. If I have said anything to offend anyone, which I have, then I sincerely apologize.
posted by TheBones at 5:37 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have learned that holding hands is important here and that making sure no feelings are hurt is important.

Perhaps you are learning impaired. Here's what you should have learned: The lives of others are more diverse than you realized. For any variety of reasons, people can be in extreme, bizarre, or just non-typical situations that don't reflect your personal life experience or mental/emotional default settings at all. You should have learned that it is not unbelievable that many of them can articulate their situations perfectly well, yet not see any clear way through their dilemmas.

You should have learned that even if with a willing spirit and open mind you cannot quite believe a certain story, you should ask yourself some simple questions about the nature of the possible offense before pointing at the poster and calling them a liar: is there anything exploitative about the question? Does it seem like the person asking is a SEO hack/scam artist/troll trying to stir shit? No? Move on. Yes? Flag it, and/or contact a mod... or... yes, bring it to metatalk, as a more or less nuclear option.

Choosing to bring it to metatalk means that the exceedingly uncomfortable glare of the spotlight will be thrown on this person who was probably not expecting the Spanish Inquisition. (Even if the person is anonymous, this is not a remotely nice place to be, and may persuade a person with a perfectly authentic problem that they don't want to risk posting to Ask again.) And it will also be thrown on you. Oh yes. Determine if you think it's worth it to do this. Does the person or the question seem like a threat to the site or users? Does the question represent a new trend that hasn't been addressed in the guidelines, yet seems to you to be something that might be damaging to the efficacy or usefulness of the site? If so, it may be worthwhile to bring up here, where more eyes and brains can tease out the situation.
posted by taz at 11:34 PM on July 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


> you guys are assholes

I was not being an asshole. I was saying you should apologize, which (ironically) is also what I said in that response to your question. I'm glad you did, but I'm still not altogether sure you realize how bad an idea this thread was. Anyway, keep on keepin' on; I'm not anti-Bones, just anti-bad-callouts.

Also, what taz said. She's good people; listen to her.
posted by languagehat at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2010


TheBones, you kinda did offend me, although I didn't think it was intentional, and thank you for the apology, and no hard feelings at all.

And, even though it maybe wasn't started in the best way, I'm glad that we got to discuss everything that we discussed in the thread, and I'm psyched that there are other mefites who are agoraphobic.

(What a weird sentence! I wish no one had agoraphobia. But because people do I'm glad to know who a few of them are so we can talk about it.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


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