Wearing Masks

May 28, 2016
#Social Engineering #Manipulation #Persuasion #Beginner #Wearing Masks #fake identity |
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Please read the other posts in this series first.


Here we will cover the basics of wearing masks aka "selling fake identities".

Wearing Masks

You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?


The ability to “wear masks” and remove your own identity to "sell" a new one is essential for SE; unfortunately this has the tendency to inadvertently devalue all the things that mask stands for or represents in the process. As you get better and better at this it can become quite hard to keep track of your "original" personality or have faith in other people's personalities etc.

V.Rao from The Gervais Principle outlines the dangers very well. Don't worry if you haven't read it before - it's a 30k+ word, 6 part monster and we don't really need any background from it here although I do recommend tackling it at some point.

"When a layer of social reality is penetrated and turned into a means for manipulating the realities of others, it is automatically devalued. To create medals and ranking schemes is to see them as mere baubles yourself. To turn status-seeking into a control mechanism is to devalue status.

To devalue something is to judge any meaning it carries as inconsequential.... the moment you rip off a mask and wear it yourself, whatever that mask represents becomes worth much less.

The danger here becomes staggeringly apparent once you gain some experience doing it. One of your first thoughts will likely be "Wow, this isn't actually that hard. How many other people are doing this?" and in a way everyone is to some extent.

Do you think the barista at Starbucks is particularly happy to see you? Did that cute guy/girl actually enjoy your sense of humor or were they just after casual sex? What about your co-workers or that stripper who "you really connect so well with"? Maybe.. but maybe not. So how can we effectively sell an identity?

Three Helpful Principles

1. The ability to lie to yourself. You need to sell yourself on the lie that you already are the embodiment of the mask you'd like to wear. If you can't sell the lie to yourself then you likely won't be able to sell it to others. This is similar to "fake it until you make it" and being confident in the sense that doing a proper job of appearing to be something you are not naturally means learning more about the subject matter. You don't want to be easily outed or have your cover blown after all, right?

**please note: Lying to yourself is incredibly risky but no risk, no reward right? You need to find a good balance between "confident enough to act" and "dangerously delusional".

2. Deny "objective" truth. We go back to Nietzsche's Perspectivism here - the world may be knowable but it has infinite interpretations and people aren't strictly logical creatures. This will allow you to truly "believe" whatever it is you are selling and help keep you from over-analyzing illogical traits/beliefs or things that you don't like/agree with etc. Your goal is to be empathetic and acknowledge the perspective as valid (not necessarily "true"). You can find more on truth vs validity with this khan academy video.

3. Life is a stage/game. Once you realize this most of the "danger" and "worry" mentioned before should be gone. This is the natural state of things you just weren't consciously thinking of it like that before. Hell you'll likely realize that, to some extent, this has been an inherent/unconscious trait of yours since a young age. The only thing that has changed is your perception of the situation so relax a bit and aim to simply improve how well you do.

To quote Shakespeare:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...

The biggest difference now is that you're starting to realize just how deep the rabbit hole can go. Suspending your personality/ego to create a "mask" or custom personality for the people you are interacting with allows you to dissociate yourself from the situation. Friendly customer service is one of the most common examples but take a look at this man, nicknamed "Roofman", who was an escaped convict living in a Toys R US while leading a false life as a church goer and kind/loving boyfriend.

A quick quote from the woman he conned:


"I was numb and in shock. I was hysterical," she said. She refused to believe them until they showed her evidence on the Internet.

"He was very well-spoken, well-dressed, clean, generous... He volunteered for the church's outreach program for needy families, giving their kids toys" she said of the man she had been dating since mid-November.

"My pastor and my congregation all fell in love with him immediately" Wainscott said.

He bought her diamond earrings and expensive scarves; he gave gifts to her three children. They spent the holidays together, decorated her Christmas tree and went to movies.


Talk about playing the role incredibly well - this guy even donated solid chunks of time/money to charity to keep cover! How wary do you think that woman will be of her next "Prince Charming" etc? A perfect example of "If it seems too good to be true it probably is" and abusing peoples desire to have that "fairytale" happen to them. People will often willingly overlook warning signs, take "abuse", or otherwise put up with off-putting behavior in order to keep their "happy delusion" going.


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May 28, 2016
#Social Engineering #Manipulation #Persuasion #Beginner #Wearing Masks #fake identity |
| | Share on Google+