Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

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Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sat Jun 19, 2010 2:23 pm

Whew...some movie.

I'm talking about the documentary, Talhotblond, about a somewhat startling murder case involving pretending to be someone you aren't on the Internet.

"Talhotblond" was the username of an 18-year-old West Virginia woman named Jessi who really was a tall, hot blond as evidenced by the photos she sent to her online fling-thing, a 19-year-old Marine about to be deployed to Iraq. Except, as you undoubtedly guessed, he wasn't any of those things except a long-ago Marine who'd been discharged because of a drinking problem. "Tommy" was actually a middle-aged father of two who wanted to recapture his youth and concocted Tommy out of frustration at his impotence and boredom with his 16-year marriage.

You will be stunned at how this case unraveled. Even though I suspected early on that Jessi probably wasn't who she claimed to be, I never had a hint about who she actually was.

I won't issue any spoilers. You can rent the movie from Amazon for only $3.99 as opposed to the $5.00 it cost me on Uverse's On Demand.

Or if you'd rather save the money for a burger, you can read the story on Wired.com.

Talhotblond murder case
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Sakhaiva on Sat Jun 19, 2010 2:59 pm

Once I met a guy from an online site; it was a learning experience. While he was who he claimed to be with me, I discovered that, in addition to his main profile, he maintained 5 other profiles.... two of which he posed as sexy young women ... dressed in lingerie!!!

When confronted about this, he claimed that it was for online chess and said no one would play with him if they realized he was a 50 y/o man.... when posing as a sexy 18 year old, however, he landed a bevy of partners.

Well ok then!
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:49 pm

I remember the shock level I caused for my teammates a few years ago while playing City of Heroes, an online roleplaying game.

Most of the time, you don't bother to ask about the real people behind the characters everyone plays because you know that any type of character can be created. I have about half hunky young guy characters and sexy young thang female characters myself. That's just the way these games are.

However, one night several of our team were killed and had to go to hospital to get resurrected. We were all fairly low level characters in a mission some distance from the entry to the area, so it was going to take these people a good deal of time to get back to the rest of us, sometimes fifteen minutes to a half hour.

While waiting for the "dead" to return, we started chatting about where everyone lived and how old each person was.

It was pretty fun as one guy said he was a fairly young soldier stationed in Korea, a couple of people were twenty or thirtyish in widely distant parts of the U.S. and one was an 11-year-old. I mentioned that I was 56, somewhere near that age, don't recall just how old exactly. The kid didn't believe me at first and wanted to know what my birthday was, so I told him. He was charmed, enthralled and a wee bit shocked, I think, at the fact that he was playing this game with a woman about his grandmother's age.

I thought it was cute as hell when he said he was going to tell his grandma that old ladies like her even play the game. < sigh > Ah, the perspective of youth!
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by sacrificialgoddess on Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:07 pm

Are you suggesting I am not real, Dot?

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:12 pm

OMG! You mean I've been chatting all this time with Dr. Who???

Oh, wait a minute, Dr. Who's a character...

OMG! You're TOM BAKER???

SG, I swear I'd never have guessed... Twisted Evil Very Happy
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by sacrificialgoddess on Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:21 pm

I'd rather be Sarah Jane Smith! Imagine, hooking up with a guy who could show you all of time and space, and eventually, with enough time, would turn into David Tennant!





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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:40 pm

Yeah, but with my luck I'd get the current doc who hasn't even as much sex appeal as Tennant's pinky finger.

I'm gradually getting used to Matt Smith in the role, but Tennant's departure was a significant loss of eye candy.

I've gotta dash to the supermarket, but let's chat on a new thread about the current doc and where the story seems to be going, what say?
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sat Jun 19, 2010 6:09 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:...he claimed that it was for online chess and said no one would play with him if they realized he was a 50 y/o man.... when posing as a sexy 18 year old, however, he landed a bevy of partners.

I don't have much of a problem with his playing a role to acquire chess partners as long as that's all he did with the sexy chick image. But as you appear to have done, I'd have had my doubts that was all he did with the roleplaying...

Extending the pretense to IMs or emails and not disclosing his actual age and identity to the other person would be wrong, IMO.

This thread may be a good place to discuss Nethics, so to speak.

Any thoughts on how much pretense is okay and when it crosses the line into not-okay?
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:07 pm

I find it very troubling. While I can understand the old geek who uses a avatar of a pretty young girl in order to lure in chess players but after he does initiate a game with them, what does he do with them? Does he flirt the whole time, lead them on to think he is a girl or does he tell them who he really is? I'm pretty sure a good number of them would run if he told them he was really a 50 year old man. If he enjoys pretending to be a girl and flirting with other men though...?

Some years ago one of my daughters broke up with her boyfriend when she discovered he went into chat rooms using her name and picture and pretended to be girl interested in sex. He was having an online affair with another man who was also pretending to be a girl, as it turned out.

I would not advocate anyone handing out persona information but I also don't think it is right to deliberately mislead another person for personal gain.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Sakhaiva on Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:19 pm

gillyflower wrote:I find it very troubling. While I can understand the old geek who uses a avatar of a pretty young girl in order to lure in chess players but after he does initiate a game with them, what does he do with them? Does he flirt the whole time, lead them on to think he is a girl or does he tell them who he really is? I'm pretty sure a good number of them would run if he told them he was really a 50 year old man. If he enjoys pretending to be a girl and flirting with other men though...?

Some years ago one of my daughters broke up with her boyfriend when she discovered he went into chat rooms using her name and picture and pretended to be girl interested in sex. He was having an online affair with another man who was also pretending to be a girl, as it turned out.

I would not advocate anyone handing out persona information but I also don't think it is right to deliberately mislead another person for personal gain.

I stand in agreement with you.

I would have flipped had I been your daughter Gilly... his behavior was totally wrong and dangerous.

Re: Nethics.... I think we find the 'bottom line' when ever an online presence begins to have a negative impact on a person's physical life (either the person doing the writing or the person on the other end or others involved; children, babies, spouse, s/o et al)

Taking a photo of your girlfriend and making a faux profile, pretending to flirt with others... esp total unknowns... falls into this category. Scary stuff, that!
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:59 am

Sakhaiva wrote: Taking a photo of your girlfriend and making a faux profile, pretending to flirt with others... esp total unknowns... falls into this category. Scary stuff, that!

Okay, maybe I'm morally and ethically lacking, but while I definitely have a problem with someone's taking the identity of a friend or acquaintance with accompanying details and pretending to be that person, I don't have one with someone who pulls an anonymous photo off the net as I presume Chess Partner Guy did. A photo put onto the net these days is open season for anyone who happens onto it to copy and paste as everyone "netting" about ought to know.

And flirting while he's playing chess? Not such a bad thing, I don't think. After all, people do sometimes flirt with others they don't really find appealing because flirtation is a ritual in bars or at parties, for instance. Why is that so different? And would we condemn a relatively harmless act like that, too?

So, as I said previously, if this is as far as someone takes it, I don't find that so bad. Questionable, yes, since it is deceptive but not seriously so, IMO.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:41 am

Dot, I'm assuming that the people who are joining the man for a chess game are other men who believe that they are flirting with a woman, not a 50 year old man. I would find it creepy if I discovered that the person I thought I was flirting with turned out to be a man. I mean, think of going to a bar, flirting with a woman and finding out it was a man, all along. That's deception.

On the other hand, the middle aged, as many of us know, become increasingly "invisible" to others be it sales clerks or people online so I understand why someone would use an avatar of a young and attractive person instead. It smooths the way. I just have a problem with it if a person keeps up the pretense when he or she knows that the other person is getting invested.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Ebon on Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:43 am

The sexy young girl to lure in chess partners thing might actually be true. Weirdly, even in chess, the sexy women get picked for a game long before anyone else. Although maybe he just enjoys pretending to be a girl and flirting with guys on the webway? Personally, I don't see anything wrong with that so long as it stays at flirting or maybe anonymous cybersex. Much beyond that and you have to clue them in.

I also play City of Heroes (Dot, I'm on the Virtue server as @OriginalEbon, look me up). One of my characters is a former succubus (it's that kind of game). At one point, I was wandering around the Pocket D (strict non-combat zone) and got propositioned by a guy. I informed him that although the avatar was a sexy demonette, I was a large, hairy guy and his response was "So?".
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:50 am

I have a feeling that men and women look at sex a lot differently!

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Ebon on Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:08 am

Well, that's certainly true!

I think this is something that we're going to find more and more: That our physical being is unrelated to who we are online. Because the webway is a purely mental enviroment, we are free to interact without the necessary artifice of the meatworld. IRL, what we look like, the way we sound, conveys numerous messages to those we meet which may or may not be accurate. We are, in a very real sense, confined by our meatsuit. But the webway, because it is so purely mental, that doesn't apply. Sometimes, that's a negative (the GIFT principle) but often it's not. Without the prejudgements and prevarication required of the meatworld, we can be judged purely by what we do and say. I suspect that eventually this form of anonymity will play a large part in ending such things as racism and sexism because your avatar's skin colour or gender is purely an arbitrary choice, a personal taste judgement. And if differences like skin and gender are so arbitrary, then what a person does and says becomes disconnected from the meatsuit saying it.

And that brings with it philosophical questions as well. If I type these words in an office in the English Midlands, they are then processed in a server in New York and read by you in, say, Texas, where does my consciousness actually reside? Cognito ergo sum might be useful on an individual level but the only way we can know that someone else exists is through their interactions with us and if those interactions take place through a broadband pipe, do we not then approach a form of gestalt? And if we are approaching such a gestalt form, what does that say about the relationship between the society, technology and the individual? There are people now, many of them, who met and fell in love online. I suspect that eventually, we will see online marriages. What legal jurisdiction does that fall under? As time goes on, there is going to be a need to establish an international set of laws governing the webway (not dissimilar to the maritime laws that govern ships in international waters). While the US would doubtless like to impose their own laws on the whole of the webway, that's just not going to work because although there are a number of things we can universally agree upon as wrong (kiddie porn, for example), much of law comes down to societal standards and in a society like the webway, societal standards are very different to those of contemporary American society.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:10 am

It think that is a bit idealistic, Ebon. There really is very little difference between pen pals forged in letters and online friendships. In both you are how you present yourself and in both it is purely mental. Some people enjoy that kind of interaction - more do now because it is immediate.

But I've had a little too much interaction on fandom boards where sock puppets and crazy people abound who are masters at presenting themselves as something they are not and at manipulating others on the web. I've met several people in real life that I knew first online and some are pretty much as they presented themselves, others are not so close. It is kind of like actors in movies/tv/stage. Some people tend to play a part online and sometimes it boils down to you get to see the best part of them online.

I've taught my children actually to look at what a person does rather than what they say, to judge them because sometimes what they say and what they do doesn't match up. That is difficult to do online.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:29 am

Ebon, I realized that I am heavily influenced by the people who use our public computers. We see people pretending to be something they are not all the time in order to prey on the vulnerable.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:20 pm

Ebon wrote:The sexy young girl to lure in chess partners thing might actually be true. Weirdly, even in chess, the sexy women get picked for a game long before anyone else. Although maybe he just enjoys pretending to be a girl and flirting with guys on the webway? Personally, I don't see anything wrong with that so long as it stays at flirting or maybe anonymous cybersex. Much beyond that and you have to clue them in.

And I agree, Ebon. I don't think it's such a big deal unless any such encounters verge into relationships.

I also play City of Heroes (Dot, I'm on the Virtue server as @OriginalEbon, look me up).

Haven't played for over a year due to reactivating my Sims addiction with Sims3, but I've been thinking about getting back into CoH. It's a completely cool game.

Don't recall that I had any Virtue toons going. I've had some there, but there seemed to be more spoiled kids on that server than on others. I mostly play on Triumph and Champion.

One of my characters is a former succubus (it's that kind of game).

Oh, that would be a fun character! I got "genericed" for a buxom black chick with lemon yellow hair that I named Healah Ho. People kept telling me what a cool concept that was while she lasted. Apparently, some squeamish type took offense at her biog which mentioned her having been "in the business" but retiring to become a healer in Paragon City. Honestly! As if most 10-year-olds today don't know what a ho is anyway!

Anyway, back on topic...I think a lot of people get carried away under cover of the anonymity you have online. I know from my own experience years ago on AOHell that it can be difficult not to get swept up in pretending to be someone you're not.

I think the pretense that's possible when other people can't see who you really are can be difficult to give up once you get into it. It's dangerously fulfilling in some ways to get away with pretending to be better looking and far sexier than you yourself are.

I often wonder, though, if there would be as much gender switching online if society were more accepting of bisexuality and transgenderism. Seems to me that pretending to be the other gender might be a useful way of venting frustration for those with no more acceptable outlet for their orientation.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:37 pm

Ebon wrote: There are people now, many of them, who met and fell in love online.

:::::: raising hand :::::

I'm one of those. Hubby and I met in an AOL member chatroom fifteen years ago.

I suspect that eventually, we will see online marriages.

Actually, I did witness a handfasting ceremony in that same chatroom at one point. Anyway, most of the people present believed it to be a second ceremony following the legal one the couple had already had.

Unfortunately, it turned out not to have been the least bit authentic... a long and unpleasant story. The woman concocted a fake handfasting to get rid of a guy she wanted to dump. He was a good friend of mine and spent a lengthy IM session one night telling me that she'd given him the impression that she was serious about him to the point of talking engagement. He was a Marine who'd been on some kind of maneuvers with no access to a computer while all this "handfasting" was being planned and thus knew nothing of it until after the fact. He was devastated when he learned of it. Apparently, she'd been stringing along several men using various concocted personas and screennames but was too cowardly to break off any of the relationships directly.

It became somewhat sordid and upsetting when those witnessing what they had been led to believe was an actual handfasting learned what the real purpose of the ceremony had been.

So, yes, I certainly agree that much damage can be done by online pretense.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by sacrificialgoddess on Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:03 pm

I don't know if any of you guys were on B'net way back then, but we had a couple of folks, Honor and PhoenixBlue, meet on the B'net pagan boards, fall in love, and actually get married. They have left B'net far behind, but they are still together, happy as clams, living it up in Colorado. I talk to them from time to time on facebook now and again.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Sakhaiva on Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:10 pm

That's a very cool story SG. I've heard of good friendships starting online and moving to the 'real world' It's a lot of fun to finally meet someone in the person.... RedFrog and I met for a picnic and coffee and it was very cool. I can tell you, without a doubt, that RedFrog is one authentic dude! And a very kind person too.

(Back to the "5 profiles to play chess", when I saw the profiles (he used my computer then neglected to log out; when I went to log in, I was all *who dat?*) he lied saying *I didn't do it.* So I did the index.dat thing and the other data came up... so he tried to *correct* the lie with another lie, then another..... I think he cycled through 6 different stories before finally saying the profiles were all for chess.

The only thing a person has is their word. Without that, there's nothing. Mark Twain put it really well: "When in doubt, tell the truth"
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Ebon on Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:49 pm

Oh, that would be a fun character! I got "genericed" for a buxom black chick with lemon yellow hair that I named Healah Ho. People kept telling me what a cool concept that was while she lasted. Apparently, some squeamish type took offense at her biog which mentioned her having been "in the business" but retiring to become a healer in Paragon City. Honestly! As if most 10-year-olds today don't know what a ho is anyway!

They're really weird about the genericing. There seems to be a standard that it gets genericed or banned if, and only if, someone complains. The succubus was a dual defecter from heaven and hell to the side of personal profit and I've got a load of alternate costumes (schoolgirl, secretery, nurse, etc) and never had a problem with it. A bunch of mine are basically ripoffs of various obscure comic-book characters I liked and the most I've ever had from the rare person who recognises them is "nice toon".

Anyway, back on topic...I think a lot of people get carried away under cover of the anonymity you have online. I know from my own experience years ago on AOHell that it can be difficult not to get swept up in pretending to be someone you're not.

I think the pretense that's possible when other people can't see who you really are can be difficult to give up once you get into it. It's dangerously fulfilling in some ways to get away with pretending to be better looking and far sexier than you yourself are.

I often wonder, though, if there would be as much gender switching online if society were more accepting of bisexuality and transgenderism. Seems to me that pretending to be the other gender might be a useful way of venting frustration for those with no more acceptable outlet for their orientation.

Good question. I'm sure that's the case for some. For others, it's as simple as "I wonder what it's like being X"; sometimes, it's just a giggle and, in MMOs, it can be as simple as coming up with the concept for the character (Most of my characters are ones that just appeared in my head, regardless of gender). I suspect that for many, it's as simple as being able to express the "feminine" side of the personality. As much as we're all aware of sexism directed at women, there's an equal (but very different in effect) amount of gender-based expectations applied to males.

So, yes, I certainly agree that much damage can be done by online pretense.

Sure but that's no limited to the webway, that's a basic hazard of all relationships.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by Ebon on Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:59 pm

gillyflower wrote:It think that is a bit idealistic, Ebon. There really is very little difference between pen pals forged in letters and online friendships. In both you are how you present yourself and in both it is purely mental. Some people enjoy that kind of interaction - more do now because it is immediate.

I've been immersed in cyberculture for pushing thirty years now. If I didn't believe in it...

But I've had a little too much interaction on fandom boards where sock puppets and crazy people abound who are masters at presenting themselves as something they are not and at manipulating others on the web. I've met several people in real life that I knew first online and some are pretty much as they presented themselves, others are not so close. It is kind of like actors in movies/tv/stage. Some people tend to play a part online and sometimes it boils down to you get to see the best part of them online.

I've taught my children actually to look at what a person does rather than what they say, to judge them because sometimes what they say and what they do doesn't match up. That is difficult to do online.

But are we seeing a part of what people are online or their real self? You've heard the expression that character is who you are in the dark, when no-one will know? Well, since webway interaction is anonymous, surely we get a greater read on someone's character directly because of the lack of repurcussions? That's the basis for the GIFT principle: That a normal person with the addition of anonymity and an audience will, in most cases, act like a fuckwad but is that purely because of the effects of anonymity or is that what such people are really like? Assholes and manipulation are as commonplace in the meatworld as they are online.

Understand, I'm not suggesting how you should look after your kids. But these are questions of philosophy that I think we need to consider.
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:22 pm

Assholes and manipulation are as commonplace in the meatworld as they are online.

Exactly, Ebon.

I thought we were discussing how much is too much online and at what point does fairly harmless deception become not-so-excusable. Gilly and Sakhaiva seem to be saying that any deception at all online is immoral.

But isn't women wearing makeup and dying their hair or a balding man wearing a hairpiece immoral then since doing so presents an image that isn't what the person actually looks like?

Now, as for Chess Guy. That's a different story. If his various profiles were only for what he told you initially, Sakhaiva, then why not simply laugh and say so when you first questioned him about them. Sounds to me like this was a guy who'd probably have real life partners tucked away somewhere that you'd eventually have found out about.

Maybe the question boils down to ought a person ever to trust someone they find has presented a different image online than is actual?
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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

Post by gillyflower on Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:41 pm

Ebon said: "But are we seeing a part of what people are online or their real self? heard the expression that character is who you are in the dark, when no-one will know? Well, since webway interaction is anonymous, surely we get a greater read on someone's character directly because of the lack of repurcussions?"

I don't think so. I think that some humans like to try on different hats and the internet allows that. They might on one board get off on being better/kinder than they are in real life because of the pay off and it doesn't actually cost them much. The internet allows us all to become actors.

Many of the actors I've known develop a public persona to interact with the public. They hide behind that persona. I think that some people do that on the internet too. Maybe some people feel freed by the anonymity to be their true self but I think that you have to weigh the pay off into the equation.

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Re: Internet cautionary tale (Talhotblond...a documentary)

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