Questions 222 of 365: How gullible are we?

iPhone 4: Welcome to the family!!!
Image by IpUrBeLtZ via Flickr

Gullibility is an ironic joke to those who are young. We tell each other that the word isn’t in the dictionary or that it is written on the ceiling. We prove ourselves gullible nearly every chance we get because we get so excited about the things that we know can’t possibly be true but that we wish were anyway. We believe in what our older siblings and parents tell us about bunnies who give away chocolate and monsters in closets. We continue to believe out of fear or pride.

As adults, though, we shun gullibility as a vice. We proclaim our abilities to rise above gullibility and rely upon the logic that we have honed over the years. And yet, we get sucked in anyway.

No fewer than four times today I received direct messages employing me to come and sign up for my chance to beta test iPads. These direct messages were from real people I know and follow. Each one of them were sucked into a slick looking webpage enough to give away their Twitter credentials and have their accounts hacked. They were drawn in by the promise of a free iPad. They were lulled into a false sense of security by a beautiful website theme. In short, they were gullible.

I don’t blame them, though. A few weeks ago, I was duped into entering my credentials to visit a mobile movie site. I realized my mistake, but it was awfully hard to tell on my phone that I wasn’t someplace like Netflix. But I think the broader point was that I wanted it to be that easy. I wanted to be able to watch full length movies on my phone so badly that I was willing to take the risk and pass out my account to anyone with enough gumption to promise it to me. I wanted to be gullible, and they knew that. They took what I held as the next logical step in the hope of technology and they ran with it. Because it wasn’t a giant leap, I was okay to be duped. I think that is exactly what happened to others today.

Because the iPad is something that likely each one of those people who out in their information were looking purchasing in the future, they saw this as the means to take that next step into iPad ownership. It wasn’t something that would just be nice to have down the road. These people had put enough time and thought into it to know that if there was some way of attaining one, they were going to do it. And rather than money, they were willing to shell out privacy in order to take that next step.

And, it is that next step that is going to kill us.

Well, maybe not kill, but surely get us into some pretty serious trouble. Because we are so eager for quick fixes and easy ways out, there is no limit to what others can propose to us. So long as it is not too outlandish or too far off what we can see directly in front of us, we are willing to accept some sacrifice to see where this path leads. We are willing to take the next steps with those that we are unfamiliar, but we would never do the same thing if they promised an entire journey.

This is the reason that most people don’t accept the “free cruise” flyer as legitimate, but they do accept the penny auction sites or sketchy Facebook targeted facebook ads (the ones that know your age and the fact that you are a father… just creepy). We accept what we can theorize into being. Whatever bit of magic there is in the offer (free, unlimited, etc.), there is always a basis in something real. There is always a reason that something is so cheap, and if we can see that reason as legitimate then the offer itself has been legitimized.

We are so gullible that we are willing to give away our universal passwords (most people use the same password for everything) for just the hope of attaining what we don’t have right now. It makes me worry about just how much we are being sold that is one step removed from reality. Was the promise of Google Wave’s revolutionary collaboration tool just a bit too magical? Is the promise of 3d video one step beyond what it is that we actually need? Are the ultra low prices at the local discount store or online retailer simply too much? Are we just being gullible?

The answer, probably, is yes.

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