The 7 Most Annoying Hidden Agendas on the Internet
There are a lot of unspoken (and spoken) no-nos on the Internet, like attention whoring, spamming, bragging and disliking Christopher Nolan's Batman movies. As more people catch on to these rules, it doesn't make the behavior go away, it just makes people more sneaky.
Here's some ways people try to get their spamming and whining and self-promotion past your defenses:
Mysterious Facebook Updates
Have you ever seen a friend suddenly post a mysterious, unexplained update on Facebook along the lines of "I don't know why I bother to try to help people. :-(" or "*sigh*"? Some people call it vaguebooking.
Failbook has a category devoted to this.
Why do they do this? Maybe they are just poor communicators who expect people to read minds. More often, this is a "teaser" statement designed to pique your interest in a boring story about their lives you would normally ignore. Some people will fall into their trap and ask, "What's wrong?" and the poster can dump his or her story on those people without feeling guilty because, well, they asked!
Did you ever have to do book reports in grade school? Remember how you were never supposed to tell people how it ended? "Will the Hardy Boys manage to find the criminal before their friends are dissolved in a vat of acid? Read the book and find out!"
By the time we grow up, we learn it's not good to be that transparent and say, "How did my attempt to help someone backfire on me today? Send me a sympathetic message and find out!" so we layer it under a bit more subtlety.
Another from Failbook.
You could just be honest and say, "I had a crappy day and need someone to talk to. Message me if you've got some time." But this approach fell flat in our focus groups, far behind more proven marketing techniques like offering to enter the listener into a sweepstakes for every minute they listen to you, or promising a surprise guest, or just vaguebooking.
I, for one, would prefer a return to the more direct sensationalism of our youth. "How was my co-worker unfair to me today, and did I end up dissolving her in a vat of acid? Anyone who wants to know, please send me a message." People who don't want to hear your story don't feel obligated or manipulated, and people who do will also get an exciting fictional epilogue about a close call with acid, which is the least you can do to pay them back for their time.
"And when I finished, this was all that was left of him."
You probably know there's a lot of militant people on the Internet pushing for unpopular things, like white supremacy, turning the clock back on women's rights, abolishing all religion, converting everyone to their religion, being more accepting of pedophilia/dog fucking, appreciating Cars 2, etc.
I was going to say Delgo, but no one's seen that.
The people who push these things know they get yelled at when they bring them up, but they don't accept that this is because they are wrong and their ideas are awful and that Cars 2 was deservedly left off the Oscar nomination list. They think that it's a taboo subject that people have a "knee-jerk" reaction to, and if they just approach it a little bit sideways, and people don't realize they're talking about dog fucking or segregating black people at first, they'll be able to get them to think more "open-mindedly" about the subject, once they've cleared them of silly cultural preconceptions like racism being bad.
Instead of starting out with "Don't you agree that black people have lower IQs and are best suited for physical labor?" they try to avoid setting off any alarms by framing it as a discussion about genetics and evolution, opening with "Everyone agrees that genetics have at least some effect on different traits, such as intelligence, right?" If you say yes, they hope to lead you, like some kind of Socrates, through the steps of what they believe is a clear and logical pathway toward realizing that black people should be put in a warrior caste.
Which doesn't make any sense, since the Ultimate Warrior is clearly white.
Or they might post a link to a new study or book and say, "This guy sure has some controversial things to say about race and intelligence. I don't know what to make of it myself! What do you guys think?" Once people start debunking the study, the original poster starts to "play devil's advocate," in a friendly way at first, saying, "Yeah, that sure is an extreme point he is making! But I think there is some truth to it and we can't ignore the whole thing. Like this part ..." As you debunk that, he will get more frustrated and eventually openly argue for whatever the article says. Keep it going long enough and he will just snap and pretty much start making Nazi salutes and reciting Mein Kampf.
This person is imagining himself as Socrates, leading you wisely through a bunch of questions to discover the truth (which means whatever he is pushing) for yourself. What he is actually doing is playing King of the Mountain without telling anyone else that they're playing. He gets up on the mountain and invites people to come climb because he "wants to see other people's climbing techniques." Then, as you start climbing and showing him your footholds and such, he kicks you in the face and starts knocking all the other climbers off, and they're just as surprised as you were.
See, you can feel like you are "winning" an argument if you are the only one arguing and everyone else is just casually trying to help you answer the question you claimed to innocently need help with, in the same way you can "win" a fight if you ask someone to help you fix your computer and you stab him in the back while he looks at it. It doesn't make them wrong or a sucker, it makes you a dishonest asshole.
There is a whole Twitter account devoted to picking out humblebragging tweets, where people make excuses to brag about themselves. A couple of examples:
As you can see, a lot of self-absorption can be done in a 140-word standalone remark. With access to the interactivity and length of a forum thread format, people have a lot of other options available, though.
In a tweet, you can tell people you're worried you've been boning too many women, but on a forum thread, you can go into detail about the sex and about how guilty you feel that all these women won't leave you alone, copy and paste some text from a sex addiction website to make it sound like you're seriously considering this as a psychological problem and pretend you've told everyone this so you can get valuable advice from them. And if you do get any advice, you can go into even more details!
"I've also noticed that 21 out of the last 22 women I've slept with have been white. Do you think I might be a racist?"
On a gaming forum, you can ask for "help" beating the final boss on Legendary or Extreme or Insane mode or whatever, six hours after the release of the game. Or a car enthusiasts' forum: "The Mazda 3 is listed as having a curb weight of 2,969 lbs. but I was able to lift mine easily the other day. I'm wondering if the dealer ripped me off, and some of the parts might be missing?"
I have to say that making these up can be fairly addicting. I suggest having a contest to come up with these in your particular Internet community. It can be pretty discouraging for someone to come in and try to pull it off when there's a posted fake example of the very tactic they're about to try. We had a game on the Cracked forums a while ago. This was my entry:
Hey guys. My dog threw up today and I am worried it might have bulimia. I really need some advice from you guys because I don't know a lot about bulimia, since I have a naturally perfect figure. All the boys always tell me I am very good looking, but I don't know if I believe them. I feel like I'm really ugly. I bet you guys would probably think I'm ugly, too. If you go to my website here, there are some pictures of me wearing a bikini, so you can see for yourself how ugly I am! LOL! I think the problem might be that my boobs are too big. It makes me feel fat sometimes. I have thought about taking up bulimia actually, but after seeing my dog throw up today, I was so traumatized that I've changed my mind.
Anyway, so my question is, can dogs have bulimia? What should I do? If it helps, I have some pictures of the dog. That's me in the bikini holding it. Sorry I'm so ugly!
"And here's another picture of my dog!"
"I Just Found ..."
Everybody's got a blog or a web comic or a Twitter account these days (or has a friend with one), so pretty much everybody is familiar with the temptation to flog your crap wherever you go. Most of us have the sense and consideration to tamp down this instinct and confine our self-promotion to appropriate times and places. Otherwise, the Internet would be filled with a million advertisements for blogs and YouTube videos, blotting out any actual content people would like to read.
The more self-centered among us, however, feel that they deserve to spam their shit more than anyone else does, which means they eschew "promote your blog here" areas and try to sneak links to their terrible work into general interest areas by pretending they "just found" this brilliant video or web comic, or are "wondering what people think" about this "funny" blog article.
"Pardon me, good sir! I just stumbled across a marvelous play called Hamlet."
Usually, one big clue is the number of views something has. If someone links a nine-view YouTube video they "just found," it's pretty safe to say they "found" it by clicking on the link after their upload was complete. Another hint is the fresh, never-posted-before sock-puppet accounts that often follow the initial link, posting, "Great stuff! I liked (terrible part)!"
Probably one of the best examples of this is a fellow known as Douche Quadbike, or Ben Ryan Metzger, a guy who was desperate to star in the new Captain America movie despite his tragic handicap of being unable to act. Before coming up with the strategy of making a video of himself as Captain America, a brilliant idea that would take years to formulate, he went at his goal by making a video where he rode an ATV and pushed around some tires and bales of hay to spell some woman's name for some reason. Hey, he's an actor, not a writer.
He visited about a million forums and posted this same exact post:
The funniest part is that no human being would be moved to tears by that video, except maybe tears of laughter. Unfortunately, after being laughed at by the entire Internet, he finally took the video private, but you can see the whole thing here, with a better soundtrack by Sanchez:
And here's the techno remix:
"Let's Hear Your Stories"
Largish Internet forums are really bad places to tell mediocre stories about your personal life. Unless you're a great storyteller, you usually get a bad response to going, "Hey everybody, look at me!" and then telling a story about the time you sprained your ankle or the way you cleverly told off a stupid customer at Walmart. Either it has to be about an amazing event ("the time I missed a field goal and lost the Super Bowl") or you have to be an amazing storyteller.
If it's a story about that time you got really drunk/high, you might as well just send your listeners to bed immediately.
Or, option three, you take the spotlight off yourself and let everyone share their stories about sports failures, or emergency room visits, or cats. Everyone can skim around and read the stories they think are most interesting instead of being forced to focus on yours, whether they like it or not. Everybody wins! Unless you didn't want to share the spotlight and wanted all the attention on your story.
In that case, you want to tell a very specific story about yourself and casually invite other people to share stories that fit that very narrow criteria. For example, I could tell a boring story about the time I saw a physician's assistant take a fishhook out of a girl's thigh and then go, "Anyone else who has any fishhook-related stories to share from volunteering in the ER at Alexian Brothers Hospital in San Jose, please feel free to share your stories! I would love to hear them! :D"
"If it doesn't involve a fishhook, I don't want to hear about it!"
Nobody else would have any stories, and any responses would have to be about me and my story. But I technically opened it up to everybody, so I can pretend to be sad and hurt if anyone accuses me of trying to get attention for my boring story.
The best approach, really, is to just start a blog. I know "get a blog" is starting to be an insult to Internet storytellers the same way "get a room" is to ugly affectionate couples, but seriously, it's a great place to practice your storytelling, and people who went there knowing you were going to talk about yourself are probably going to be in a better mood than someone you sprung it on unexpectedly.
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 3
Posting Your Photo
A lot of people really want to show their photos online, and many of these people are women. I touched on this in an earlier article about mistakes women make on the Internet, but men can be equally vain.
It's extremely intimidating to post a picture of yourself and honestly state why: "I think I look pretty good. Here's a picture of me. I'd like some compliments if you agree." Maybe other people don't agree, and will rip into you. Or maybe even if they agree, they'll be inclined to rip into you because they don't like giving compliments to someone who feels entitled to them.
It's like telling someone you love them and they just say, "I know."
So people have to come up with excuses to post their photos and pretend they don't think much of their looks. You have to pretend it's about something else. "Here's a really cool hat I have and wanted to show you all. Pay no attention to my face in this picture, it's about the hat. I just woke up so I look awful." Hopefully someone takes the bait and says you look great or compares you to a famous actor/actress. Or if you're confident in your looks, you can just feel pretty good that people got a glimpse of you and are probably impressed, even if they don't reply.
To be even safer, you can add a participatory cover-up, like the "let's hear your stories" thing, where you ask everyone else to post pictures of themselves with hats, or swords, or whatever. Advice to anyone participating in these threads: Please take the price tag off your item before posing with it.
Do My Homework for Me
Sometimes people inexplicably turn to the Internet for help with their homework. I don't mean for references, I mean like going onto a forum and saying, "Give me a debate topic!" I wouldn't help them because I believe it is wrong for a student to fail an assignment because some Internet stranger convinced them that George Washington was 200 feet tall and defeated the Kraken. I believe a student should fail on his own merits.
It is true, however, that Washington was 12 stories high and would not save British children. I suggest you review this very educational video.
But at least they are honest. It's even more annoying when someone disguises their homework question as some kind of discussion. Something like:
hi everybody I was just thinking last night about Thomas Paine once said, "That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value."
wut do You guys think?
This is why I hesitate to say spanking has no place in child discipline.
Anyway, you guys should be pretty sharp at looking for hidden agendas now, so I'll just spend the rest of this space sharing with you this crazy number puzzle I just found out about.
So today I was looking at my credit card number and I realized the last four digits were the same as my expiration date. Isn't that a crazy coincidence? I've been looking around and I think there's some kind of pattern between everybody's credit card numbers and expiration dates, even if it's not obvious in some cases. Think I'm wrong? Send me your credit card number and expiration date and I'll explain the pattern! I'll bet you $10 I can find it!
Oh, I have a theory about the security code, too, so send that as well.