General Etiquette > Techno-quette

Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (second example)

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LB:
I understand the temptation to express your doubts, but most of the time, there just is no point. Unless they are hurting someone or trying to hurt someone with their lies, or trying to solicit something, I usually feel like it's best to ignore liars.

There's always a chance that you are wrong about them. Unless you have proof, accusing them just gets you into a fight.

gollymolly2:
I feel like I see two different types of lies on the internet - stories that are untrue (or have some basis in reality and are wildly exaggerated), and details that OPs add to make themselves (or the story's "hero" look better).

For the first type, think it's just a fact of internet life that some people make up stories for attention or whatever. I think the best course of action is to just ignore the people and maybe send a pm to any other posters who seem overly-emotionally involved. I definitely don't always practice what I preach here - sometimes I read something that is SO absurd that I end up leaving a snarky comment about it.  But I think ignoring is the better tactic. If what the person wants is attention, then by engaging, you're ratcheting up the drama and giving them what they want, and by ignoring, you're giving them the opposite of what they want.

On the other hand, I feel like people who make up details late in the game don't want attention, they want validation. So I think it's better to call them out on it. And I think people should be direct. To me, there's nothing impolite about saying: "You said [one thing] but you also said [totally inconsistent thing], how does that work?" or "You said [very unrealistic thing] - that seems odd to me." Maybe the person has a perfectly good explanation that clears things up, or maybe they're exposed as trying to manipulate others and will refrain from doing it on the same website again. Win win!

exitzero:
I don't bother, unless it is some information that could potentially be dangerous. I have a cousin who seemingly lives to pass on the latest "miracle cures" she finds on line, and some of the information is very, very bad. I'll usually just put a link to Snopes.

Tea Drinker:
I think it's okay to say something like "Wow, that's weird" (if something is that over-the-top). If the person is saying that this happened to/was observed by their friend/sister/coworker I might add "Are you sure they weren't exaggerating?" To me, at least, there's a difference between suggesting to someone that they are lying or exaggerating, and suggesting that a third party is doing so.

"My friend told me" is one step away, and two or three steps away you get to the Friend of a Friend who turns up in all sorts of urban legends. Yes, it's normal to talk about what happened to our friends and relatives as well as to ourselves, but it's also true that almost everyone has some friends or relatives who exaggerate or even make things up. I don't think etiquette requires us to pretend that everyone who has talked to anyone we talk to is 100% reliable. It does, I think, require us not to urge our friends to go back and probe for details to verify or refute that third person's story: the same bit of distance that makes it okay to suggest that someone's brother-in-law is exaggerating would vanish if the mutual friend were to start probing for details. Just to quietly note that so-and-so seems to have a lot of friends with unusually exciting lives, or that X's cousin has had an awful lot of narrow escapes

bah12:
I read things online all the time that I'm pretty sure are, at best, wild exaggerations of the truth (on this forum a lot...especially when people come back to 'clarify' a post). Many times, it seems that people make up these stories/points to emphasize their own arguments or way of thinking.  As hard as it is, I try my best to just let them go (not always successful, but I do try).  Because exposing them as liars usually just starts an argument that I have no interest in getting into. I think it's fine to ask clarifying questions and I also think it's even ok to have an honest reaction...like "wow!  That sounds so crazy...it's hard to believe!"

There are attention-seekers online and there are people that lie, I believe, because they just can't help it.  I might choose not to take their advice, jump to their rescue, take them at their word, get sucked into their latest wild story etc, but I do know that trying to make them admit to their lie is an exercise in futulity.  Is it rude to imply they are lying...I don't know.    I think it's rude to outright lie for no other reason than to make yourself look good or try to "win" a discussion so I think it's a bit hypocritical for a "liar" to state that we can't question their stories.  At the same time, some hard to believe stories are in fact true and it's difficult to verify facts online sometimes, so it's kind of hard to 'expose' someone factually even if your gut is telling you they are full of it.  Most of the time I just resign myself to the fact that there are those who have credibility with me and those who don't.  I react to each differently.

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