Roxanne Tellier – Smiling Faces, Sometimes, They Don’t Tell The Truth
Superman would be really disappointed in the United States today.
“Truth, Justice and the American Way” apparently appealed to a different America – an America that believed that they could trust what their politicians said, and how the media reported current events.
That’s no longer true for most people, it seems.
Setting aside the Liar-in-Chief, who is informed by gossip, innuendo, and ‘some guy who knows a guy, ‘ the overall definition of truth seems to have morphed from a reality that is based on facts, and verifiable, a trust in which what can be seen and tested and confirmed is in fact the truth … to whatever the public will buy.
#45 holds firm to his slanderous, libellous, and fantastical pronunciations and paranoiac statements – not based on reality – by doubling down on his own belief in his own infallibility. And then tells his audience to “stay tuned .. you’ll see .. the real story will come out, and I’ll be proved right.”
Rather than rule with truth and justice, he instead appeals to his fanbase and the court of public opinion, preferring to allow the easily distracted and manipulated to amplify and dignify his specious ‘reality.’
And when that doesn’t happen, he merely repeats the lie, and says that it must be true, because that’s what ‘everybody’ says. ” “I have articles saying it happened,” said the president, though no actual news organization has found any such thing.”
Over the years, most of the civilized world has learned that very little that goes on in the political world, or the corporate world, for that matter, is actually as it is portrayed. That’s lead a lot of people to believe in wilder flights of possibility, and to conspiracy theories that aren’t provable, but that are breathlessly transmitted and believed within a group who nod knowingly at each when they convene. They snark at those who ask for facts – again, with the ‘everyone knows’ mantra that implies that THEIR people all know, and, since YOU don’t, you’re a fool. Sheeple. Living in a bubble. Oblivious of how the world really works.
But you know all of that. You’ve lived through the last few decades, and you’ve become smarter, sharper, and more able to spot a scam when you see one. You’ve safeguarded your computers, learned the lingo of the groups to which you belong, and figured out the buzz words to listen for in a sales pitch.
Which is all great, and very practical … most days. Until something happens to upset the apple cart of your own comfortable complacency.
Happened to me, in December. I thought I’d heard all of the scams and how to avoid them, but I took the bait, and went for the miracle cream for which you’d pay only the shipping.
At first, my only confusion was over how my credit card was charged three times for very expensive shipping. After the online purchase, the buyer did not receive any email with information on the company, or an account number for the ‘free sample,’ nor anything that explained that you’d just joined this very expensive club. I foolishly believed that the exorbitant shipping and handling was a pricey lesson to learn, but thought no more about it.
Until two weeks later, when my card was charged with several hundreds of dollars for product I hadn’t even opened yet.
The scam, in this case, was the very small fine print, that allowed this company to charge the ‘full price’ ($300 per item) to the purchaser IF the purchaser did not cancel his/her account within 15 days. And that the full price was applicable, not just on further shipments, but on the shipment you’ve already received. And you’d be receiving another, full priced, shipment very soon.
It only took minutes to find several articles on the ‘net confirming that this scam had worked very well in other European countries, where it had netted millions from people just as easily conned as myself.
I duly reported this cyberscam to my credit card company, citing the British and Irish news reports that explained how it worked. The representatives to whom I spoke were very friendly and helpful, as they explained that it would be my responsibility to sort out any sort of repayment from the scammers. And then, without letting me know, they put my credit card on hold, until I could sort out the dispute.
To make a long story short, (yes, I know, too late) I reached the company and was immediately told that they would cancel my account, but that the best they could do was offer me 25% of the charges reimbursed. I managed to get 50% of the costs reimbursed, but only after threatening to take the whole sordid story to the police and the press. It all turned out to be one of the most expensive lessons I’d ever learned.
I’m cynical enough to know that the gullible can be conned, even without pointing to the American voters who elected their current conmen into office. What I thought, though, was that I was also smart enough to spot those on social media who requested ‘friendship,’ but who were actually pursuing their own agendas.
When someone asks that you become their Facebook friend, most of us will immediately check to see how you have come to their attention. Is it through something you’ve posted, or done in real life? Who are their mutual friends? You might have a look at their page, to see what sort of articles they post, and to see where your interests merge.
Or you might waive all of that investigation if you have a few friends in common of like minds.
That’s what happened when I accepted a friendship with someone who seemed to be close to a very old friend. And at first, my new ‘friend’ was cheery and positive, if a little needy and gushy at times. Perhaps she sent me a few too many personal messages, engaging me in discussion, probing into how I was feeling, and sometimes paging me for a chat, just because, she said, she’d sensed that I wasn’t ‘in a very good space, emotionally.’
It’s flattering, when someone seems to take a warm interest in your wellbeing. This seemingly innocuous social media actually encourages a false sense of intimacy and kinship. For some, interest and compliments from someone of the opposite sex, who appears attractive and vibrant, someone who appears to care about you, and about how you’re feeling, can be a respite from a harsh world and loneliness.
Maybe that’s why I brushed aside my first inklings that all was not as it seemed in this new friend. I had a lot on my plate, and the fact that she kept posting flattering profile photos of herself and her family, that were clearly stock photos of models, didn’t really bother me. After all, who doesn’t make a point of putting photos up of themselves that make them look their best? Perhaps, I thought, she had rather low esteem. Perhaps she hoped to find a companion that bought into her personal fantasy. If anything, maybe she was one of those people that send mail to prisoners, believing that they could present themselves as they wished, since they’d never actually have physical contact with that person.
But then, her fantasies escalated. At first, she was a part-time, visiting nurse. Then she had a doctorate, and then she was a doctor. Next she was a doctor who taught other doctors how to doctor, after a lifetime career of building clinics globally. Her children morphed from good kids she’d raised single-handedly into paragons of virtue, in service in the American military.
And all the while, she was quietly `friending`my own friends, who, as I had done before them, accepted her request because I was a mutual friend. Soon she had a whole new circle of people believing her words, and looking forward to sharing their daily lives with this person whom they’d never met in person. And one day I realized that she’d even friended one of my cousins, whom she could not have possibly known . Still, I said nothing. It just didn’t seem that big an issue.
She didn’t seem to want anything from anyone, except their attention, their trust, their online company – oh, and their emotions. She cheered on their lives, celebrated with them when something good happened, and mourned with them at their losses. She professed a solidarity in their lifestyles, presenting herself as a strong, but kind, person; she was not to be messed with, and claimed to have the resources to bring down her own perceived enemies, and yours too, if you wanted!
Yet, strangely, I never saw any sign of ‘enemies’ posting to her page, or of anyone saying anything negative about her. The odd person might say that they didn’t believe her profile photos were real, but she had a long and complicated tale of how they were indeed her photos, and current to boot. She’d explain that she’d been a model when younger, and had kept herself in good shape, even as she aged into her fiftyish self, through a strict physical regime. And how dare you insinuate any differently?!
Most of us let the obviously stock photos of professional, beautiful models in their twenties slip by without comment. One friend did mention that she found it odd that this busy professional in the medical field was followed around by professional photographers every day of her life, but .. really … it seemed a small thing, maybe a personal peccadillo. Let it slide.
On occasions the mask would slip, and a different person would emerge, one who was prickly and paranoid, vindictive and self-righteous. On those days, anyone who disputed her words, or questioned her photos, became an enemy that she would crush, and banish – not just from Facebook, but from every good thing in their own lives. She would destroy them, she claimed, and they would never be heard from again. Those who felt that wrath melted away, and were replaced with `better` friends – people who would accept her as she presented herself.
At some point I began to realize that I dreaded seeing her posts, since I could never be sure which character would emerge. And I began to wonder why someone, whom I didn’t really know off of Facebook, demanded so much attention, and information about my private life. Why was I allowing a stranger’s moods to impact upon my own, when I wouldn’t allow that from people I’d personally know for decades? But again, there didn’t seem to be any malice, or any sort of catfishing involved. I just knew that something didn’t feel right.
I began to `ghost` her, not responding when I was tagged on one of her memes, and not accepting attempts at chat. I was busy, and it was easy to simply ignore what she had to say.
When people whom I did personally know would reference something that she’d posted, I brushed off their doubts. Honestly, who has time to comb the internet and prove, through reverse image search, that her solemn, if humble, insistence that the photos she posted were of anyone other than those she claimed them to be, might not be the truth?
One day, however, she posted new photos of her children; the housewife/professional model/mother of three perfect children that she claimed was her daughter, the two sons in the military, one of whom was not just a soldier, but a lawyer as well. But on that day, I realized that one of the ‘son’s’ photos was actually a promotional photo from the U.S. Military, recruiting for JAG officers. And that the other ‘son’s’ photo had been prominently featured in news articles about an actual, identified U.S. Air Force Captain, named Martin Hemmingsen. And that the ‘daughter’ she claimed as her own was in actuality a well known model, improbably named Sunshine Margarita.
Oh, and that her own profile picture was of a signed model’s release, filed with Bigstock, a stock photo company.
Now, I fully understand that many parents won’t put up photos of their kids, not only for fear of embarrassing them, but for safety purposes. The difference is that these were ‘brag’ photos, meant to enhance the poster’s self-image, and were clearly marked as being actual photos of her own children.
That’s when I contacted the friend through whom I’d first encountered the culprit. As it turned out, he couldn’t remember how they’d become friends on FB, and how it was that, although she claimed to live in his own state, he’d never actually met her. Over time he had slowly realized that, while she seemed harmless, her own circle of friends had become largely filled only with his friends, and their friends of friends. Curiouser and curiouser.
In a long conversation in which we’d shared our information and thoughts, we came to the conclusion that her fantasies seemed to be escalating, and that it might be time for us to alert our ‘mutual friends’ to this deception, no matter how harmless the deception might seem. Tearing off the bandage, as he put up, would be kinder than letting them find out that we had this knowledge, but hadn’t alerted anyone else to what we knew. If they were disclosing intimate and private information to her, perhaps of a medical nature, things might get risky.
Through private, group messages, we sent out a barebones condensation of what we’d discussed.
Some replied that they had always sensed that something was not right about her, and decided that they’d be safe rather than sorry; they unfriended her immediately. Others, debating whether or not to unfriend, said that they’d never had any negative encounters with her, and that, in fact, they would be sorry to no longer have her active in their daily lives. And still others decided that they’d proceed with caution, but were thankful it had been brought to their attention.
There were a few who felt that the people unmasking this person were the villains for exposing her misrepresentation of herself. I have to wonder if those writers were angrier at the ones who exposed the facts, or at their own gullibility in trusting a stranger’s distortion of reality.
There have been countless articles written on how easy it is to misrepresent oneself on social media, whether for personal or financial gain, and on ‘Facebook Envy,’ that arises when it seems that your circle of friends all have better lives, homes, children, and friends than you do.
It may not be something that bothers you personally, but large numbers of impressionable people really do feel a need to create and present a more perfect world than they actually live in, even if it means embellishing reality. Studies have claimed that one in three people on Facebook actually feel worse about themselves after cruising the site, and that the seeing of contemporaries’ personal pages, who have large quantities of friends, likes, and birthday greetings, can trigger emotional pain and resentment.
Even those who spend a lot of time on Facebook will often say that it’s a love/hate relationship; they’re happy to keep in touch with what other’s are doing, but they hate the small town/high school drama that rages through so many of the postings.
Best, indeed, to believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.
These are the days of image correcting and branding, when everyone is intent on presenting their best selves, or at least the part of them they want others to believe is their best self. It’s always been that way, really, although it’s only now that we feel we have to do so to the larger world.
But it’s only by being open and honest about ourselves, with all of our vulnerabilities and flaws, with all of our human fallibilities and mistakes, that we can really be understood as a full human being, who is worthy simply because of everything that makes up whom we have become. This is the basis of a true friendship, of a meeting of like minds, and the reason for loyalty and why we defend friends with whom you’ve shared your true self, and they have shared theirs.
The question is – does everyone really need to know all there is to know about YOU? Have we become so narcissistic that the answer to that question is, “Yes”?
Roxanne’s column appears here every week
Contact us at email@example.com
Roxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.