How To Tell If a Story is False
“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”-Alexis de Tocqueville
A great and important quote. For example, Tocqueville didn’t say that. That was Marvin Gaye and later Jay-Z. Come on, bro! Get your head in the game!
Still, the quote resonates. College life is complicated enough, but it gets worse when you believe the wrong stories and people. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you out and find the red flags.
Is the Story Very Impressive?
“So then the first model says, “but who will eat all these donuts now!?” So I…”
I used to be terrible with girls. That’s not unusual in high-school, and I don’t deserve a medal for it. But there was a kid who was apparently great with girls. This was all the more impressive because he looked like Jabba the Hut slept with a frog, and that frog-baby had really poor social skills.
After he told us about his latest threesome I was furious. “I can’t believe it” I told my friend, flustered. “I literally can’t believe it.”
“Yeah” my friend said. “You literally cannot believe it.”
Pretty lame story, right? This is why you can trust it. If I had added the part with ninja-strippers, then you should know better.
Does the Story have Very Specific Word-Choice?
“I slept with a girl at Harvard!”
“She goes to Harvard?”
“Blah blah blah at Harvard.
If anyone uses specific word-choices or phrases they are playing the wusses’ gambit: they want you to get the wrong impression but they are too lame to actually lie to you. In the above story, she clearly doesn’t go to Harvard; she was visiting or maybe a janitor. But he doesn’t want you to know that.
Does the Storyteller Have Lots of Cool Quotes?
“So I say to him, well, it looks like you need to get those Bulba-sores tested”
No, no you didn’t say that. These are less lies than exaggerations that happen naturally. You’re speaking about how the moment felt, not what literally happened. You may have wanted to tell him that if he really wanted to fight, he should start fighting his acne, but you didn’t. You probably said “oh yeah?” or “Oh?” or “Sorry, sir.”
As a rule of thumb, any witty or dramatic quote was not said. At best, it was subtext, at worst, it was invented.
Is the Storyteller Emotionally Invested?
“So my girlfriend, who, is, like, the most beautiful girl in the world, she…”
False. Unless you are dating Rihanna, in which case, I hate you as a person. As far as your girlfriend goes, she probably doesn’t even crack the top ten world-wide, and that’s okay. Clearly you love her and that’s what matters.
The problem here is that a strong emotion – love, in this case- colors facts. You’re not being lied to, but what you hear isn’t exactly true. It goes past love: if you’re scared, telling the story, you’re going to reflect the emotion in the facts. The dog wasn’t “Four angry wolves”- it was two large dogs, but to the narrator, it’s the same, so that’s how they say it. Political rhetoric is the worst: Obama isn’t an “Illuminati Werewolf”. Obama is merely a politician doing his best to do what he deems is right, and also, as we know, is a cyborg.
The more worked up someone is over something, the less likely they are to be accurate, but don’t hold it against them.
Is it After 2 AM on a Weekend?
“Bro, bro, I swear, no, it was a ghost. And it knew my name! And that I was drinking! And I woke up hungover. Hangover ghost.”
No, this pizza isn’t the best. No, I didn’t have a zillion beers, and no, most of all, I didn’t literally have a zillion beers, stop calling out people who say “literally,” guys, it’s really annoying. No, I am not good personal friends with Kanye West, and while I probably will text you tomorrow, I certainly will not build you a statue of solid gold if you do this. Sorry, ladies.
Is it on the Internet?
“So after hanging out with my good personal friend Kanye West, I started to put the moves on the U.N. Ambassador…”
If it’s on the internet, it isn’t true. Take the above quote, for example. As you well know, Mr.West and I are little more than pleasant acquaintances.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my model girlfriend and I are about to have intercourse, which is I thing I do normally, with no weird things.